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Climate control

via Raspberry Pi

If you’re in the UK this week, you’ll hear a lot of people muttering darkly about the big yellow ball in the sky, and how they’re having to mist the bed with water in order to get it cool enough to sleep, or steal fans from their children’s bedrooms, or make makeshift beds on the cool tiled floor in the kitchen out of cushions. (All overheard at Pi Towers yesterday.)

And Jon is wearing three-quarter length trousers.

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The UK, you see, does’t really do summer. So this week’s egg-cookingly hot heatwave has had us all wishing we had air conditioning – while it’s pretty standard these days in offices, nobody (apart from my mother, who has a mobile unit she calls Mr Freeze because she is awesome like that) really has one at home, unlike those of you in countries whose summers last longer than the standard British week. Mark my words. Next week it’ll be raining again.

The outlay for an air conditioning unit at home is pretty big – they’re unusual, so not very cheap here – but there are options. You can build your own 12v evaporative unit very cheaply, with a PC fan, a bucket, an aquarium pump and some inexpensive electronics and bits and bobs from the homewares shop: this version comes in at about £40. You can take it a step further and add a cheap thermostatic switch.

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And, of course, now you’re equipped with an air conditioner that you have made with your own hands, you can start to automate your house. Because that’s what we do here when we’re not spraying the bed sheets and wearing trousers which display our calves.

If you’re taking cooling seriously, you should be looking not just at active cooling like the orange bucket swamp cooler; but also at stopping the heat from building up in the first place. Chris Rieger from Australia has a neat and simple home automation project that controls his blinds as well as his air conditioning. (If you have curtains, you can automate those too – see this project from Jamie Scott, which would be easy to incorporate into Chris’s system in place of the blinds mechanism.)

Chris has made a neat little GUI you can use to control the system over a web interface, with the ability to automate by time or temperature, or to manually turn the system on or off. Full instructions are available at his website.

So really, Great Britain, you’ve got no excuses to keep complaining. I expect to see you all ripping out old PC fans and buying buckets at Homebase this weekend.

 

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Laser Dog Monitor

via Raspberry Pi

Dave Young lives in Denver with a baby, a wife, and a dog called Penny. Penny’s a good dog (good dog, Penny!) – she’s a softie around the baby, walks to heel, and doesn’t destroy things. All that good dog stuff.

But Penny has one weak spot. Dave says:

Her only issue is that she goes BONKERS for food. My wife and I have done a great job training it out of her when we’re around so we no longer have to worry about a cheese board sitting on the low coffee table, but I know she gets on the counters any time we are away. Sounds like a job for a machine!

How’s it work? There’s a laser tripwire, which triggers audio of Dave saying “Hey!” in a COMMANDING MANNER. The setup also takes a picture of Penny’s infraction using the Raspberry Pi camera board.

Full instructions are available over at Element14 so you can make your own. I’m already thinking about ways you could expand this project: Mooncake, the Raspberry Pi cat, doesn’t respond well to voice commands, but we think a Pi-powered water pistol could be just the ticket on those days we want to defrost prawns. Ideas for your own feature-creep in the comments please!

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Blackgang Chine dinosaur update

via Raspberry Pi

You know that thing about dinosaurs having brains the size of walnuts? These dinosaurs have brains precisely the size of a Raspberry Pi.

The Blackgang Chine amusement park animatronic dinos have come a long way since we saw them last. Here’s Dr Lucy Rogers to talk us through what’s new – and what’s coming next.

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Naturebytes wildlife cam kit

via Raspberry Pi

Liz: The wildlife cam kit has landed. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know we’ve been following the Naturebytes team’s work with great interest; we think there’s massive potential for bringing nature to life for kids and for adults with a bit of smart computing. Digital making for nature is here.

Naturebytes is a tiny organisation, but it’s made up of people whose work you’ll recognise if you follow Raspberry Pi projects closely; they’ve worked with bodies like the Horniman Museum, who have corals to examine; and with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Pis watching for rhino poachers in Kenya? Pis monitoring penguins in Antarctica? People on the Naturebytes team have worked on those projects, and have a huge amount of experience in wildlife observation with the Pi. They’ve also worked closely with educators and with kids on this Kickstarter offering, making sure that what they’re doing fits perfectly with what nature-lovers want. 

Today’s guest post is from Naturebytes’ Alasdair Davies. Good luck with the Kickstarter, folks: we’re incredibly excited about the potential of what you’re doing, and we think lots of other people will be too.

We made it! (quite literally). Two years after first being supported by the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Education Fund and the awesome folk over at Nesta, we finally pressed the big red button and went into orbit by launching the Naturebytes Wildlife Cam Kit – now available via Kickstarter.
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This is the kit that will fuel our digital making for nature vision – a community of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts using the Pi to help monitor, count, and conserve wildlife; and have a hell of a lot of fun learning how to code and hack their cam kits to do so much more – yes, you can even set it up to take chicken selfies.

We’ve designed it for a wide range of audiences, whether you’re a beginner, an educator, or a grandma who just wants to capture photos of the bird species in the garden and share them with her grandchildren – there’s something for everyone.

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This was the final push for the small team of three over at Naturebytes HQ. A few badgers, 2,323 coffees, 24 foxes,  and a Real Time Clock later, we signed off the prototype cam kit last week, and are proud of what we’ve achieved thanks to the support of the Raspberry Pi Foundation that assisted us in getting there.

We also get the very privileged opportunity of appearing in this follow-up guest blog, and my, how things have changed since our first appearance back in September 2014. We thought we’d take you on a quick tour to show you what we’ve changed on the kit since then, and to share the lessons learnt during our R&D, before ending with a look at some of the creative activities people have suggested the kit be used for. Suggest your own in the comments, and please do share our Kickstarter far and wide so we can get the kits into the hands of as many people as possible.

Then and now – the case.

Our earlier prototype was slick and thin, with a perspex back. Once we exposed it to the savages of British weather, we soon had to lock down the hatches and toughen up the hinges to create the version you see today. The bird feeder arm was also reinforced and a clip on mechanism added for easy removal – just one of the lessons learnt when trialing and testing.

The final cam kit case:

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The final cam kit features:

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Schools and Resources

A great deal of our development time has focused on the creation of a useful website back end and resource packs for teacher and educators. For Naturebytes to be a success we knew from the start that we’d need to support teachers wishing to deliver activities, and it’s paramount to us that we get this right. In doing so, we tagged along with the Foundation’s Picademy to understand the needs of teachers and to create resources that will be both helpful and accessible.

Print your own

We’ve always wanted to make it as easy as possible for experienced digital makers to join in, so the necessary 3D print files will now be released as open source assets. For those with their own Pi, Pi cam and custom components, we’ve created a developer’s kit too that contains everything you need to finish a printed version of the cam kit (note – it won’t be waterproof if you 3D print it yourself).

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You can get the Developer’s Kit on Kickstarter.

The Experience

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Help us develop a fantastic experience for Naturebytes users. We hope to make a GUI and customised Raspbian OS to help users get the most from the cam kit.

It’s not much fun if you can’t share your wildlife sightings with others, so we’re looking at how to build an experience on the Pi itself. It will most likely be in the form of a Python GUI that boots at startup with a modified Raspbian OS to theme up the desktop. Our end goal is the creation of what we are calling “Fantastic Fox” – a simple-to-use Raspbian OS with pre-loaded software and activities together with a simple interface to submit your photos etc. This will be a community-driven build, so if you want to help with its, development please contact us and we’ll get you on board.

Creative activities

This is where the community aspect of Naturebytes comes into play. As everyone’s starting with the same wildlife cam kit, whether you get the full complete kit from us or print your own, there are a number of activities to get you started. Here are just a few of the ones we love:

Participate in an official challenge

We’ll be hosting challenges for the whole community. Join us on a hedgehog hunt (photo hunt!) together with hundreds of others, and upload your sightings for the entire community to see. There will be hacking challenges to see who can keep their cams powered the longest, and even case modification design competitions too.

Identify another school’s species (from around the globe!)

Hook up a WiFi connection and you’ll be able to share your photos on the internet. This means that a school in Washington DC could pair up with a school in Rochdale and swap their photos once a day. An exciting opportunity to connect to other schools globally, and discover wildlife that you thought you may never encounter by peeking into the garden of school a long way away.

Build a better home (for wildlife)

It’s not just digital making that you can get your hands into. Why not build a garden residence for the species that you most want to attract, and use the camera to monitor if they moved in (or just visited to inspect)? A great family project, fuelled by the excitement of discovering that someone, or something, liked what you build for them.

Stamp the weather on it

There’s an official Raspberry Pi weather station that we love – in fact, we were one of the early beta testers and have always wanted to incorporate it into Naturebytes. A great activity would be connecting to the weather station to receive a snapshot of data and stamping that on to the JPEG of the photo your camera just created. Then you’ll have an accurate weather reading together with your photo!

Time-lapse a pond, tree or wild space

It’s fantastic to look through a year’s worth of photographic data within 60 seconds. Why not take a look at the species visiting your pond, tree or a wild space near you by setting up a time-lapse and comparing it with other Naturebytes users near you?

We’d love to hear your ideas for collaborative projects – please leave a note in the comments if you’ve got something to add!

 

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The MagPi issue 35 – next month we’re in print!

via Raspberry Pi

Issue 35 of The MagPi is here. It’s rammed full of projects, and features some of the most amazing builds and hacks we’ve seen so far this year. We’ve got 22 pages of step-by-step tutorials and the chance to win a beautiful Raspberry Pi robot (thanks to Dawn Robotics).

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For me, the absolute highlight this month is Mike Cook’s sprinting game, which will have you building physical controllers you operate with jogging feet. This is something you’ll be able to put together as a fun physical computing project with friends or as part of an after school club or Raspberry Jam. Here’s Mike to demonstrate.

Your feedback on The MagPi has been fantastic, and we’re working to make it better every month. So far, we’ve had 100,000 downloads for issue 31 (we’ve had nearly 300,000 downloads overall since we started the new version of the magazine).

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And we’ve got some news: next month, The MagPi goes into print. We are absurdly excited.

Russell "If I'd known you were taking photos I'd have shaved" Barnes

Russell “If I’d known you were taking photos I’d have shaved” Barnes

Russell Barnes, editor/Babbage owner, says:

The MagPi magazine has already proved itself to be one of the most successful new technology magazine launches of the year and I couldn’t be happier. It’s not every day that a digital magazine goes to print, but that’s exactly what we’re doing next issue. The Official Raspberry Pi magazine will be available throughout the UK and America, with plans to branch out into other territories and languages as soon as possible.

So here’s a date for your diaries: the print magazine is coming on 30th July.

The magazine will be even bigger and better than ever, with 100 pages of Raspberry Pi projects, tutorials features and reviews. You’ll be able to buy the magazine in store and online; in the UK it’s £5.99 UK. Other territories will vary.

The magazine will be available to buy in store from WHSmith, WHSmith Travel, Barnes & Noble and Micro Center, and all good newsagents. You’ll also be able to order a copy online from the Swag Store from July 30. 

Subscriptions are open now! If you want to be among the first people to receive the magazine you can subscribe today. You can get six issues of the magazine from £30 and 12 issues from £55. It’s available online by visiting www.bit.ly/MagPiSubs, by calling +44 (1)20 258 6848, or by printing out the form on pages 28 and 29 of this month’s issue

Why subscribe?

  • Never miss an issue
  • Get it delivered to your door
  • Get it first (before it hits the shelves)
  • Save up to 25% on the cover price. 

The MagPi is (and always will be) free to download as a PDF. Russell says:

While we’ve been getting hundreds of requests for the magazine in print over the last six months, The MagPi has always been available as a Creative Commons-licensed PDF, and that’s the way it’s going to stay! You can download every issue of The MagPi from raspberrypi.org/magpi and you’ll soon be able to join a mailing list to get the issue delivered to your inbox every issue.

We hope you enjoy this month’s magazine as much as we enjoyed making it.

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OSHWA Supports Ownership in Amicus Brief

via Open Source Hardware Association

Last week OSHWA joined our friends at Public Knowledge, EFF, the Digital Right to Repair Coalition, and Public Citizen in telling the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that ownership matters.  Why is ownership so important?  Because owning something means that you have the right to fix it or change it or integrate it into something else without first asking permission from the original manufacturer.  A manufacturer of an object shouldn’t use patent law to get a perpetual veto over how you use that object.

The case involves Lexmark (the 2d printer company). Over the years, Lexmark has tried to use pretty much every legal trick it could think of to lock down its printers and prevent people from using non-Lexmark toner.  Having worked through all of its other options, in this case Lexmark turned to patent law.

Patents give patent owners a lot of control over objects.  However, that control largely disappears when the owner decides to sell an object.  My phone is chock full of patents that allow the manufacturer to prevent someone else from making one without permission.  However, once I buy my phone, I can do pretty much whatever I want with it – paint it green, use it as a coaster, or sell it to the phone manufacturer’s ex that they hate.  This limit to patent control is called “patent exhaustion.”  Essentially, once you sell an object protected by patent, you have “exhausted” your patent control over it.

Lexmark is looking for a loophole to patent exhaustion.  They argue that patent exhaustion only applies if the object was sold in the US.  If the object was originally sold overseas, Lexmark argues, patent exhaustion should not apply.  If this argument sounds vaguely familiar, the US Supreme Court heard a very similar case relating to copyright a few years ago.  In that case, a student was buying official copies of textbooks in Thailand (at low Thai prices) and reselling them in California (at higher – but still lower than the publisher was charging – US prices).  The Supreme Court rejected a foreign sale loophole for copyright protected books, and now we are urging the Federal Circuit to reject a foreign sale loophole for patent protected printer toner.

In addition to undermining the concept of ownership, allowing such a loophole would undermine confidence in the market.  Imagine if you needed to research the supply chain history of everything you buy.  Two identical objects on a shelf could be treated very differently by the law depending on where they happened to be originally sold by the manufacturer.  How are you supposed to know which one you really get to own and which one is still under control of the original patent owner?  That’s a research burden that serves no purpose.

Charles at Public Knowledge and Vera at EFF have good summaries of what is going on in this case.  We at OSHWA are proud to be able to contribute to this effort and look forward to updating you as it develops.