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Arduino and Distrelec launch a new automation & robotics contest!

via Arduino Blog

How can you help advance Industry 4.0 using the Arduino ecosystem? From robots and predictive maintenance to remote control and data acquisition, we’ve teamed up Distrelec to launch a new Automation & Robotics Contest challenging our community to create innovative solutions that can make the industry faster, cheaper, more flexible, and efficient.

Participants are required to tap into our extensive range of IoT boards like the MKR1000 WiFi and MKR GSM 1400, libraries, and online platform to bring their ideas to life. Industrial automation projects could target energy management, remote monitoring, machine safety, or predictive maintenance, for example, using Arduino Create to set up, control, and connect your Arduino, Intel, and Arm-based devices. Robotics projects could include designs for surveillance drones, robotic arms, rovers, or autonomous transportation, leveraging feature-rich boards like the Mega and Due to prototype advanced systems. 

How to Enter

  • Create a free account on Arduino.cc (or log in if already a member).
  • Register for the contest by clicking “Register as a participant.”
  • Send your concept to the Arduino/Distrelec: Automation & Robotics Contest by June 29, 2018. The top 150 makers will receive a coupon for Distrelec online store. Moreover, there will be a series of micro contests, with weekly prizes handed out from Distrelec.
  • Design, build, and submit your project by September 16, 2018. Winning projects will be selected based on their originality, quality, creativity, and social impact. 


Ready to get started? You can find more information on the contest here and browse Distrelec’s entire Arduino lineup on their website. To submit your ideas, please visit the Arduino Project Hub. And remember, projects must use an Arduino board in order to be eligible to win!

Join us at Raspberry Fields 2018!

via Raspberry Pi

This summer, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is bringing you an all-new community event taking place in Cambridge, UK!

Raspberry Fields 2018 Raspberry Pi festival

Raspberry Fields

On the weekend of Saturday 30 June and Sunday 1 July 2018, the Pi Towers team, with lots of help from our community of young people, educators, hobbyists, and tech enthusiasts, will be running Raspberry Fields, our brand-new annual festival of digital making!

Raspberry Fields 2018 Raspberry Pi festival

It will be a chance for people of all ages and skill levels to have a go at getting creative with tech, and it will be a celebration of all that our digital makers have already learnt and achieved, whether through taking part in Code Clubs, CoderDojos, or Raspberry Jams, or through trying our resources at home.

Dive into digital making

At Raspberry Fields, you will have the chance to inspire your inner inventor! Learn about amazing projects others in the community are working on, such as cool robots and wearable technology; have a go at a variety of hands-on activities, from home automation projects to remote-controlled vehicles and more; see fascinating science- and technology-related talks and musical performances. After your visit, you’ll be excited to go home and get making!

Raspberry Fields 2018 Raspberry Pi festivalIf you’re wondering about bringing along young children or less technologically minded family members or friends, there’ll be plenty for them to enjoy — with lots of festival-themed activities such as face painting, fun performances, free giveaways, and delicious food, Raspberry Fields will have something for everyone!

Get your tickets

This two-day ticketed event will be taking place at Cambridge Junction, the city’s leading arts centre. Tickets are £5 if you are aged 16 or older, and free for everyone under 16. Get your tickets by clicking the button on the Raspberry Fields web page!

Where: Cambridge Junction, Clifton Way, Cambridge, CB1 7GX, UK
When: Saturday 30 June 2018, 10:30 – 18:00 and Sunday 1 July 2018, 10:00 – 17:30

Get involved

We are currently looking for people who’d like to contribute activities, talks, or performances with digital themes to the festival. This could be something like live music, dance, or other show acts; talks; or drop-in Raspberry Fields 2018 Raspberry Pi festivalmaking activities. In addition, we’re looking for artists who’d like to showcase interactive digital installations, for proud makers who are keen to exhibit their projects, and for vendors who’d like to join in. We particularly encourage young people to showcase projects they’ve created or deliver talks on their digital making journey!Raspberry Fields 2018 Raspberry Pi festival

Your contribution to Raspberry Fields should focus on digital making and be fun and engaging for an audience of various ages. However, it doesn’t need to be specific to Raspberry Pi. You might be keen to demonstrate a project you’ve built, do a short Q&A session on what you’ve learnt, or present something more in-depth in the auditorium; maybe you’re one of our approved resellers wanting to showcase in our market area. We’re also looking for digital makers to run drop-in activity sessions, as well as for people who’d like to be marshals with smiling faces who will ensure that everyone has a wonderful time!

If you’d like to take part in Raspberry Fields, let us know via this form, and we’ll be in touch with you soon.

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How to build a Desktop Word Clock (in a morning)

via WyoLum Blog

Cost: $100, Time: 2-4 Hours, Difficulty: Easy, Tools: Laser Cutter, 3D printer

Thanks to the modern maker tool suite, it is getting easier and easier to make top notch builds very quickly.  In the process of revamping ClockTHREEjr, we decided to prototype and test the matrix driving circuitry.  A few short years ago (in the ClockTHREEjr era) addressable LEDs were not a thing yet.  A large array needed to be displayed one column (or row) at a time before moving to the next column (or row).  This makes the circuit and programming logic very complex.  Smart addressable LEDs (like the APA102) with a microchip in each peicepart make all of that complexity obsolete.  With only 2 pins from a microcontroller, these pixels can be commanded to set and hold any 24-bit color as long as power is maintained.  These frees up the processor to do other things like poll user interfaces and read subreddits.

So the task is to redesign the ClockTHREEjr board using these modern smart leds.  ClockTHREEjr  (C3jr) has 8 rows and 16 columns of dumb leds which can upgraded to smart pixels using 2 ULTiM8x8 (no solder) led panels.  What was originally just a proof of concept turned out to be so cool we decided to show it off and make the design public.

Once you have purchased the Bill of Materials (BoM), you can make this clock in a morning.  Once you get your 3D printer started on the baffle (.5-3 hours depending on printer and settings) you can move over to your laser cutter to make the front and back of the clock (1 hour).  Give yourself 30 minutes for final assembly and 30 minutes to program even though neither takes that much time.  That means you can make this project 4 hours with plenty of margin.  This project is a slam dunk.


  1. Print baffle
  2. Lasercut faceplate
  3. Program Feather Huzzah
  4. Assemble

1. Print baffle

2. Lasercut faceplate

3. Program Feather Huzzah

Pre-requests: Install Arduino, Feather Huzzah dev env, adafruit IO account.

Download the code from github.  You can either download the zip file or clone the repository.  The stable code for this clock is stored in DesKlok_IO.  Remember this was originally just a prototype for a larger KlokTHREEjr.  The _IO in the name refers to the fact that we are using the Adafruit_IO library for controlling the clock.  This means we can leave of a tedious physical interface.

4. Assemble



The Raspberry Pi PiServer tool

via Raspberry Pi

As Simon mentioned in his recent blog post about Raspbian Stretch, we have developed a new piece of software called PiServer. Use this tool to easily set up a network of client Raspberry Pis connected to a single x86-based server via Ethernet. With PiServer, you don’t need SD cards, you can control all clients via the server, and you can add and configure user accounts — it’s ideal for the classroom, your home, or an industrial setting.

PiServer diagram

Client? Server?

Before I go into more detail, let me quickly explain some terms.

  • Server — the server is the computer that provides the file system, boot files, and password authentication to the client(s)
  • Client — a client is a computer that retrieves boot files from the server over the network, and then uses a file system the server has shared. More than one client can connect to a server, but all clients use the same file system.
  • User – a user is a user name/password combination that allows someone to log into a client to access the file system on the server. Any user can log into any client with their credentials, and will always see the same server and share the same file system. Users do not have sudo capability on a client, meaning they cannot make significant changes to the file system and software.

I see no SD cards

Last year we described how the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B can be booted without an SD card over an Ethernet network from another computer (the server). This is called network booting or PXE (pronounced ‘pixie’) booting.

Why would you want to do this?

  • A client computer (the Raspberry Pi) doesn’t need any permanent storage (an SD card) to boot.
  • You can network a large number of clients to one server, and all clients are exactly the same. If you log into one of the clients, you will see the same file system as if you logged into any other client.
  • The server can be run on an x86 system, which means you get to take advantage of the performance, network, and disk speed on the server.

Sounds great, right? Of course, for the less technical, creating such a network is very difficult. For example, there’s setting up all the required DHCP and TFTP servers, and making sure they behave nicely with the rest of the network. If you get this wrong, you can break your entire network.

PiServer to the rescue

To make network booting easy, I thought it would be nice to develop an application which did everything for you. Let me introduce: PiServer!

PiServer has the following functionalities:

  • It automatically detects Raspberry Pis trying to network boot, so you don’t have to work out their Ethernet addresses.
  • It sets up a DHCP server — the thing inside the router that gives all network devices an IP address — either in proxy mode or in full IP mode. No matter the mode, the DHCP server will only reply to the Raspberry Pis you have specified, which is important for network safety.
  • It creates user names and passwords for the server. This is great for a classroom full of Pis: just set up all the users beforehand, and everyone gets to log in with their passwords and keep all their work in a central place. Moreover, users cannot change the software, so educators have control over which programs their learners can use.
  • It uses a slightly altered Raspbian build which allows separation of temporary spaces, doesn’t have the default ‘pi’ user, and has LDAP enabled for log-in.

What can I do with PiServer?

Serve a whole classroom of Pis

In a classroom, PiServer allows all files for lessons or projects to be stored on a central x86-based computer. Each user can have their own account, and any files they create are also stored on the server. Moreover, the networked Pis doesn’t need to be connected to the internet. The teacher has centralised control over all Pis, and all Pis are user-agnostic, meaning there’s no need to match a person with a computer or an SD card.

Build a home server

PiServer could be used in the home to serve file systems for all Raspberry Pis around the house — either a single common Raspbian file system for all Pis or a different operating system for each. Hopefully, our extensive OS suppliers will provide suitable build files in future.

Use it as a controller for networked Pis

In an industrial scenario, it is possible to use PiServer to develop a network of Raspberry Pis (maybe even using Power over Ethernet (PoE)) such that the control software for each Pi is stored remotely on a server. This enables easy remote control and provisioning of the Pis from a central repository.

How to use PiServer

The client machines

So that you can use a Pi as a client, you need to enable network booting on it. Power it up using an SD card with a Raspbian Lite image, and open a terminal window. Type in

echo program_usb_boot_mode=1 | sudo tee -a /boot/config.txt

and press Return. This adds the line program_usb_boot_mode=1 to the end of the config.txt file in /boot. Now power the Pi down and remove the SD card. The next time you connect the Pi to a power source, you will be able to network boot it.

The server machine

As a server, you will need an x86 computer on which you can install x86 Debian Stretch. Refer to Simon’s blog post for additional information on this. It is possible to use a Raspberry Pi to serve to the client Pis, but the file system will be slower, especially at boot time.

Make sure your server has a good amount of disk space available for the file system — in general, we recommend at least 16Gb SD cards for Raspberry Pis. The whole client file system is stored locally on the server, so the disk space requirement is fairly significant.

Next, start PiServer by clicking on the start icon and then clicking Preferences > PiServer. This will open a graphical user interface — the wizard — that will walk you through setting up your network. Skip the introduction screen, and you should see a screen looking like this:

PiServer GUI screenshot

If you’ve enabled network booting on the client Pis and they are connected to a power source, their MAC addresses will automatically appear in the table shown above. When you have added all your Pis, click Next.

PiServer GUI screenshot

On the Add users screen, you can set up users on your server. These are pairs of user names and passwords that will be valid for logging into the client Raspberry Pis. Don’t worry, you can add more users at any point. Click Next again when you’re done.

PiServer GUI screenshot

The Add software screen allows you to select the operating system you want to run on the attached Pis. (You’ll have the option to assign an operating system to each client individually in the setting after the wizard has finished its job.) There are some automatically populated operating systems, such as Raspbian and Raspbian Lite. Hopefully, we’ll add more in due course. You can also provide your own operating system from a local file, or install it from a URL. For further information about how these operating system images are created, have a look at the scripts in /var/lib/piserver/scripts.

Once you’re done, click Next again. The wizard will then install the necessary components and the operating systems you’ve chosen. This will take a little time, so grab a coffee (or decaffeinated drink of your choice).

When the installation process is finished, PiServer is up and running — all you need to do is reboot the Pis to get them to run from the server.

Shooting troubles

If you have trouble getting clients connected to your network, there are a fewthings you can do to debug:

  1. If some clients are connecting but others are not, check whether you’ve enabled the network booting mode on the Pis that give you issues. To do that, plug an Ethernet cable into the Pi (with the SD card removed) — the LEDs on the Pi and connector should turn on. If that doesn’t happen, you’ll need to follow the instructions above to boot the Pi and edit its /boot/config.txt file.
  2. If you can’t connect to any clients, check whether your network is suitable: format an SD card, and copy bootcode.bin from /boot on a standard Raspbian image onto it. Plug the card into a client Pi, and check whether it appears as a new MAC address in the PiServer GUI. If it does, then the problem is a known issue, and you can head to our forums to ask for advice about it (the network booting code has a couple of problems which we’re already aware of). For a temporary fix, you can clone the SD card on which bootcode.bin is stored for all your clients.

If neither of these things fix your problem, our forums are the place to find help — there’s a host of people there who’ve got PiServer working. If you’re sure you have identified a problem that hasn’t been addressed on the forums, or if you have a request for a functionality, then please add it to the GitHub issues.

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On Willful Ignorance [or Age of Unreason]

via WyoLum Blog

[We take a departure from open hardware to discuss a dangerous trend in society]

I’m confused.  How in the world did we get here?  The war on science, reason, and logic has not seen this much success since the dark ages.  Four in ten Americans reject evolution and many politicians deny climate change.  The relentless fusillade on expertise has taken its toll and it is now open season on observation itself.   Now we are told the truth doesn’t even matter.

oh… and by the way…. the Earth is flat (like your head).  I know this goes against what you’ve been taught, but let’s dig a little deeper and suppress the initial reaction to reject the claim immediately.  We can approach this scientifically and make observations that will either support or reject the claim.

In case you missed it, the Flat Earth Society suggests that the Earth is a flat disk with the North pole as its center and an ice wall near Antarctica preventing us from falling off.  According to this theory, the sun is about 35 miles across and is suspended 3000 miles above the disk, completing one revolution per day around a circle centered 3000 miles above the North Pole.  The seasons are caused by the changing radius of the circular path of the sun.

The image below shows in green, the path the sun makes over the course of a month.  An orange shows my point of observation outside Washington D.C.  The grey band shows the location of the sun over the course of a year.

We now have a scientific test we can apply to the Flat Earth conjecture.  I’ve computed the elevation angle of the sun from my vantage point over the course of a year.  Elevation angle is the angle of an object made by the horizon, the observer, and the object in the vertical plane.  Below, the elevation angle is plotted vs azimuth.

They used to say “the sun never sets on the British Empire” well according to the Flat Earth society, the sun never sets on D.C. either!  According to this model, the sun should NEVER go beneath the horizon.  This contradicts the fact that we can observe the sun elevation angle reaching zero (when the sun sets). In fact, I should never witness the sun dip below 10 degrees elevation.  Indeed there is no place on earth where the sun sets according to the Flat Earth Society.  Can you please make an observation for me?  If you’ve seen a sunset in your life, can you please state the time and location in the comments?  Its citizen science in action.

A cult is an organization that asks you to reject your own observations and adhere to another explanation on faith.  The Flat Earth Society is only one example.  Crowd size is anorther. Denying Russian collusion is another.  The question is why? and why now?  As with any cult, there is power in deception.  After the truth is cast out, a cult leader can fill the void with whatever he wants.

Science, not indignation, is the cure for ignorance: hypothesis, observe, conclude.


PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on a Game Boy?!

via Raspberry Pi

My evenings spent watching the Polygon Awful Squad play PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds for hours on end have made me mildly obsessed with the record-breaking Steam game.

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Raspberry Pi

So when Michael Darby’s latest PUBG-inspired Game Boy build appeared in my notifications last week, I squealed with excitement and quickly sent the link to my team…while drinking a cocktail by a pool in Turkey ☀️🍹


https://314reactor.com/ https://www.hackster.io/314reactor https://twitter.com/the_mikey_d

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

For those unfamiliar with the game: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG for short, is a Battle-Royale-style multiplayer online video game in which individuals or teams fight to the death on an island map. As players collect weapons, ammo, and transport, their ‘safe zone’ shrinks, forcing a final face-off until only one character remains.

The game has been an astounding success on Steam, the digital distribution platform which brings PUBG to the masses. It records daily player counts of over a million!

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Raspberry Pi

Yeah, I’d say one or two people seem to enjoy it!

PUBG on a Game Boy?!

As it’s a fairly complex game, let’s get this out of the way right now: no, Michael is not running the entire game on a Nintendo Game Boy. That would be magic silly impossible. Instead, he’s streaming the game from his home PC to a Raspberry Pi Zero W fitted within the hacked handheld console.

Michael removed the excess plastic inside an old Game Boy Color shell to make space for a Zero W, LiPo battery, and TFT screen. He then soldered the necessary buttons to GPIO pins, and wrote a Python script to control them.

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Raspberry Pi

The maker battleground

The full script can be found here, along with a more detailed tutorial for the build.

In order to stream PUBG to the Zero W, Michael uses the open-source NVIDIA steaming service Moonlight. He set his PC’s screen resolution to 800×600 and its frame rate to 30, so that streaming the game to the TFT screen works perfectly, albeit with no sound.

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Raspberry Pi

The end result is a rather impressive build that has confused YouTube commenters since he uploaded footage for it last week. The video has more than 60000 views to date, so it appears we’re not the only ones impressed with Michael’s make.


If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you may recognise Michael’s name from his recent Nerf blaster mod. And fans of Raspberry Pi may also have seen his Pi-powered Windows 98 wristwatch earlier in the year. He blogs at 314reactor, where you can read more about his digital making projects.

Windows 98 Wrist watch Raspberry Pi PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

Player Two has entered the game

Now it’s your turn. Have you used a Raspberry Pi to create a gaming system? I’m not just talking arcades and RetroPie here. We want to see everything, from Pi-powered board games to tech on the football field.

Share your builds in the comments below and while you’re at it, what game would you like to stream to a handheld device?

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