Saturday, 22 December 2012

Parts People: Mobile Raspberry Pi Computer: Build your own portable Pi-to-Go

Many people have made, or thought about making tiny little computers based on the Raspberry Pi, but for me this is the best one yet.
Not only does it include a monitor from the reversing camera on a car, a tiny keyboard, and battery pack, but it also has a wifi dongle and 60GB SSD!
This wasn't just a case of coupling of the shelf parts together, there was some soldering required but to be honest it doesn't sound that hard for anybody with a working knowledge of electronics.
The surprising thing for me was that he claimed SD cards have a limited life and they they burn out with repeated use, so to minimise the problems caused by this he added an SSD (Solid State disk) to provide a 1GB swap partition. In theory it should be faster too.
For full details go to

Maker Shed: Atmospheric Monitoring with Arduino

New from the makers shed "Makers around the globe are building low-cost devices to monitor the environment, and with this hands-on guide, so can you. Through succinct tutorials, illustrations, and clear step-by-step instructions, you’ll learn how to create gadgets for examining the quality of our atmosphere, using Arduino and several inexpensive sensors.
Detect harmful gases, dust particles such as smoke and smog, and upper atmospheric haze—substances and conditions that are often invisible to your senses. You’ll also discover how to use the scientific method to help you learn even more from your atmospheric tests.
  • Get up to speed on Arduino with a quick electronics primer
  • Build a tropospheric gas sensor to detect carbon monoxide, LPG, butane, methane, benzene, and many other gases
  • Create an LED Photometer to measure how much of the sun’s blue, green, and red light waves are penetrating the atmosphere
  • Build an LED sensitivity detector—and discover which light wavelengths each LED in your Photometer is receptive to
  • Learn how measuring light wavelengths lets you determine the amount of water vapor, ozone, and other substances in the atmosphere
  • Upload your data to Cosm and share it with others via the Internet"
For full details go to

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Register : Siri: Can you make a Raspberry Pi open a garage door?

It was always planned that with a little bit of extra circuitry the PI would be used to control external devices, and this project, controlling a garge door, is exactly what the designers had in mind.
So what, you might think, a garage door opener is just an electric motor with some sensors telling it when to stop, and you would be right there are dozens of people out there doing that sort of thing every day, but the novelty here is the romote control. Its voice activated.
And then it gets really clever, the designer is using Siri on his iPhone, and a customisable toolkit, to send messages to the Pi.  I can think of another dozen uses for that without taking breath, opening curtains, trigger a remote cat feeder, opening or locking the cat flap, opening vents on a green house, ok well maybe not a dozen, but you get the idea.
More details from the Register

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Make: Cookie Tin MonoBox Mod

If you are into making electronic music gadgets then you might already have something like this, a simple one-IC circuit and loudspeaker built into... well almost anything that will take a loudspeaker.
This guy has built his into a biscuit tin. Its powered by a single PP9 battery and while it isn't going to setthe world of hifi alight it will certainlyplay back the music from his iPod/Generic MP3 player.

If you have never made one they give it a go, once you have the bits the whol thing takes less than two hours to build and you will be suprised where you can use it.
I have one, built into an old radio case, which I use with my Casio CZ-101 synth to get that fantastic Jan Hammer "Miami Vice sound".
Othe ruses have been
  • Testing synth (and other electronic) music circuits as I build them
  • Linked to my MP3 player when camping or working in the garage.
  • Giving a nice overdriven sound with synths and electric guitars.
  • Pluged into my MP3 player, to play back drum patterms while I play acoustic guitar away from the house
  • Providing a bit more volume from teh speakers of my netbook computer. 
For full details go to

Monday, 17 December 2012

BBC News: The Pi Store opens

From BBC "Another landmark today for what must be one of 2012's most successful new technology products, the Raspberry Pi. You've seen Apple's App Store, Google Play and Amazon and Windows online shops for apps? Well, now there is a Pi Store.
The people behind the ultra-cheap computer have decided to harness all that geek enthusiasm sparked since the Raspberry Pi's launch in February and create a one-stop shop where anyone can share games, applications and tools developed for the computer.
Eben Upton, the main driver behind the Pi said he hopes it 'will provide young people with a way to share their creations with a wider audience, and maybe to make a little pocket money along the way'".
I have to admit that I didn't see this one coming, but I really should have done, and I wish the idea every possible success.
I am off to have alook now at what is on offer, but what do you think? Will it work? What would you like to see there?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Maker Shed : New Product: AlaMode Arduino-Compatible Shield for Raspberry Pi

A few montsh ago I compared the features of the Arduino and Raspberry PI, but nowhere did I consider that one day there would be a board that would directly join the two.
This new product is an Arduino clone that plugs directly onto a Raspberry Pi and commumicates it through the serial link.
This gives the processing and display power of the Pi AND the hardware flexibilty of the little Italian.
Its $45 in the Maker Shed whch is going to work out around £35 including P&P.
There doesn't see to be any software support for this yet, so yo are on you own with that one, so in practcie you coulod do exactly the same thing with a cheaper Arduino clone, but then you will have the hassle of mounting them together.
If you try one let me know how you get on.


I noticed this article on Make the other day, it is a robot arm for drawing cartoons.
It uses an Arduino for control, so nothing special there then, but what caught my eye was that this one uses Meccano and not the ubiquitous Lego Technic that these things are normally made from.
Over the years I have accumulated quite a bit of Meccano, and it has been languishing in the garage for several years. I was about to put it on e-bay as a job lot but this has made me think again :-)
For full details of this arm go to Acorv's blog page

Raspberry PI as a Radio Transmitter

Imperial College Robotics Society (ICRS) is a student-led university club aiming to increase robotics interest at Imperial College London and across the UK.
They run workshops, competitions and lectures to teach about robotics, electronics and software as well as providing help (financial and technical) to students looking to start a robotics project.
They also run several robotics beginners courses and have also recently won the highly prestigious John Lever Memorial Award for their outstanding courses and robotics talks.
One of their latest projects was to use a Raspberry Pi as a low powered radio transmitter.
Their design required absolutly no specilaist hardware, just a short aerial connetec to one of teh GPIO pins and the signal was detectable up to 50m away. Their tests were with audio signals, but I can't see why they couldn't also be used to transmit digital data, although you almost certainly would need a proper circiit to dtect it on a Pi.
In The UK you need a license to tranmit on certain frequencies, and as this is right next to Radio 2 I would think this might be dodgy ground, so best check before trying it for yourslef.
(Found via Make Blog

Friday, 14 December 2012

SOS: Synth Secrets

"Synth Secrets" was a fantastic series that ran from 1999-2002 in "Sound on Sound" magazine.
It started with a damn good tutorial for new synthesizer players, moved on to look at some of the more advanced ideas like adative synthesiszers and polyphony and finisshed with many articles analyzing various mathods of synthesizing specific real instruments.
If this were available as abook I for one would buy it straiught away.
The last article was almost ten years ago, but the subjects covered are equally applicable to todays software synths as they were to their hardware ancestors years ago.
If you like programming synthesizser or investigating some new possibilities then this page could be you gateway to inspiration. That could be a good song title that. Maybe not.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Untiled little Robot

Found on Make website, it doesn't say who this ittle fella is but he looks so organic, so real, it made me smile :-) For more go to

Raspberry Pi Lights: how to sync Christmas lights to midi audio

I found a link on the Make website leading to this project where somebody has used a Raspberry PI to synchronize Christmas lights to music.
There are no detailed diagrams so I wouldn't rate this as a beginners project, more a series of ideas and resources that you could use to create your own. The components listed are for US shops and e-bay, but in the UK they are just as easily available from rapid and Maplin.
I appreciate that for many of our Genteel readers this is all a bit "Essex" but after twelfth night this could easily be used to control all manner of other electrical devices in other situations.
The only real limits would be the current capacity of the relays you bought and the fact that they are on/off only, not gradual faders. My first thought would be for turning lights on and off with an intelligent sequence at night to make it look as if somebody were in your house.
I was told by one of Kent's finest that the best light to leave on is the toilet/bathroom, because anybody watching from outside will understand why you don't answer the phone or come to the door. That sort of makes sense but even after a cheap take away curry this would look a bit suspicious after an hour or so, so how about..
  • Bathroom light on
  • Wait 15 minutes
  • Landing light on
  • Bathroom light off
  • Bedside light on
  • Landing light off
  • Bedroom TV (or small LED array to change colour) on, sound from MP3 player?
  • Repeat every hour or so.
Hopefully Harry the crim would assume that you were watching TV in bed, so you were in, and just couldn't be bothered to get up.

For full details go to

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Build your own RC Car using Lego, an Xbox Controller and a Raspberry Pi

If like me you firmly believe that there is no upper age limit on Lego (Note that it is LEGO not LegoS) then have a look at this article
The author, Tom Rees, built a working Radio Controlled car using a Raspberry Pi to control some old style Lego motors through a couple of Ada fruit interface boards.
In practice you could probably buy a couple of Lego Nxt motors from e-bay for less and hack them around instead, but hey where is the fun in that? Er.. lots probably.
Either way have a look, its always good to see how other people hack problems.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Maker Shed: Hexy the Hexipod

From the Maker shed: "Hexy the Hexapod from Arcbotics is a fully articulated hexapod robot kit. Hexy has six legs, 19 servo motors and is powered by Arduino. It makes complex robotics lest costly, easier to learn with the full tutorials and documentation, while being radically more fun (and cute!). At the same time its built with completely open source hardware and software, making discovery and extension as easy as building it in the first place.
Use it to learn advanced robotics concepts like inverse kinematics, or use pre-built code to have it march to your bidding. Build it using the high-quality video and picture filled tutorials, and its ready to walk, play and dance with pre-built demos. Adding moves is as easy as opening a text file and following the tutorials, and moves are easily share-able as simple text files".

  • Includes:
  • - Literally Everything needed to build the kit, even the screwdriver.
  • - Ultrasonic distance sensor eyes
  • - Acrylic laser-cut pieces in your choice of six colors, with extra pieces
  • - 20 Servos (18 for legs, 1 for eyes, 1 extra)
  • - Full arduino-based Servotor32 robot controller capable of controlling up to 32 Servos
  • - All the screws and nuts you need to assemble the kit, with extras
  • - Bluetooth module that plugs straight into the Servotor32 robot controller"

I quite like the idea of this kit, I could see myself spending ages making up all manner of robots, including maybe the elusive mono-rail that I have been fiddling with for five years, but at $250 I would want to compare it very closely to a large box of Lego technic first.

For full details go to

MAKE Asks: Raspberry Pi Projects

From Make "MAKE Asks: is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.
This week’s question: Some of the most buzz in physical computing for the last several months has come from the Raspberry Pi. What projects have you been working on using this board, or what are some things you’ve seen using this powerful prototyping platform?"

For full details go to

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

MagPi issue 8 available now.

Issue 8 of the superb FREE Rasberry PI magazine MagPi is available now.
This issue contains articles on
  • Home Automation
  • Using Arduino and PI together
  • Python
  • C++
  • Ada
  • And SQL
Download this, and all copies of the MagPI,  from

Raspberry Pi: First Model A samples off the line!

You might think that now the Model B has been upgraded to 512MB of RAM nobody will want the baby brother Model A, but the foundation are betting that's not the case.
The model A is cheaper $25, has far lower power consumption, due to the fact it has no Ethernet and only one USB connector.
While more than capable of running Linux, it is targeted for people who want a highly capable embedded system for fitting inside another device.
The theory simple enough, develop the software on another system, download it to the model A and close the lid, simples, as they say in Meerkat land.
In theory I could use a Model A  as a general desktop system. I already use a USB hub with my PI systems, so the missing port isn't an issue, and my next project is to get one working with a wireless dongle, making the Ethernet port redundant. However this extra kit costs more than the saving I would make by buying a model A instead of a model B, and only have half the RAM.
Right now I wouldn't buy one, if I wanted to embed a PI I would use one of my early model B boards and replace it with a later, 512MB RAM board.  Still I am sure that this lower power consumption and price will take the PI even deeper into Arduino territory and become the device of choice for many developers.
For the original blog entry go to

Monday, 3 December 2012

BLE Shields in the Maker Shed: One-Tap Wireless Between Arduino and Cell Phones

From Maker "At the Open Hardware Summit just before World Maker Faire New York, Shawn Wallace introduced me to Chi from RedBearLab. Shawn knew that I’d developed a very healthy obsession with Bluetooth Low Energy; some time ago, Tom Igoe and Alasdair Allan clued me into the fact that it was not only a simple, low power communications option for Arduino and other devices, but it also avoids Apple’s requirement that you be in their MFi licensing program to do Bluetooth communications with an iPhone or iPad."

For more details see the Make blog

Daisy Chaining Arduino Serial Connections

I have never wanted to try it myself, but I can see a situation where you might want a number of Arduinos to work together.
Over at the Geodesic Sphere they have come up with an idea using the UART feature and connected as shown in the picture. Its cheap, lightweight, easy to implement and doesn't need special connectors.
The fastest I have ever seen a UART operating at was around 110Kbits / sec so its not as swift as Ethernet or some of the other options and its definitely one way only but if that's all you need this could be an elegant solution.

More details from

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Engineering Flowchart

SquareWear: An Open-Source Wearable Electronics Board

"SquareWear is an open-source microcontroller board specially designed for wearable electronics projects. It is small in size, low-cost, simple to use, and provides an all-in-one solution for wearable electronics projects. It builds on Microchip’s PIC18F14k50 mcu, and comes with a few different colors and two battery options. The coin version has a built-in 20mm coin battery holder and measures 1.6″x1.7″ in size; the li-po version uses an external li-po battery and measures only 1.6″x1.6″ in size."

The board alone is $16.66,which at today's rates equates to £13.80 which I think is quite good for a self contained USB enabled micro controller.
Although this was designed for wearable electronics it is so cheap and small that I can see it being used in all manner of other application.
One that immediately springs to mind is fitting them under rubbery surfaces to be used as drum pads, or embedding them in old or cheap keyboards to add USB or even MIDI control.
If this had been around 10 years ago I would have built one into my model of the Millennium Falcon to control the flashing lights etc. I can imagine using it as the payload in a rocket or model aircraft, micro drone control, Ohh I am starting to dribble at the ideas. I can even see me putting one on the cats collar, although I have no idea why, except that he is Persian and likes cool things too.
If Father Christmas reads then this then one of these in a cracker rather than some crappy plastic comb would go down really well.


Microcontroller Microchip PIC18F14K50 @ 12MHz
Programmer Built-in USB
Bootload Driver HID class, no driver needed
Serial Comm. Built-in USB CDC Serial
General I/O 8 general I/O (6 can be used as analog input) + 4 high-current output
High-current 4 outputs with 500mA MOSFET sinks
PWM Support Software PWM on 8 pins and hardware PWM on 1 pin
Push-button 1 general-purpose push-button with software reset feature
Program IDE MPLAB X, cross-platform IDE with code completion, navigation etc.
Memory Size 16KB flash, 768B RAM, 256B EEPROM
Power Options On-board 20mm coin or external li-po
Li-po Charger Built-in (on li-po version)

Full details and prices from

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Arduino Due

There is a new kid onthe block and available from teh Make Shed:
"The Arduino Due is the newest member of the Arduino family. It's the first Arduino based on a 32 bit ARM core processor, the Atmel SAM3X8E ARM Cortex-M3 MCU, so it improves on old functionality and adds new as well!
The Arduino Due offers 54 digital input/output pins (of which 12 can be used as PWM outputs, with selectable resolution), 12 analog inputs with 12 bit of resolution, 4 UARTs (hardware serial ports), and two DAC outputs (digital to analog converter), 84 MHz crystal oscillator, two USB connections, a power jack, an ICSP header, a JTAG header, and a reset button.
The Due has two on-board USB ports. A micro-USB which acts as a host allowing you to connect peripherals like mice, keyboards, and smartphones & a USB type A port to use for debugging."
Full details from

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

In the Maker Shed: Getting Started with Compressed Air Rockets Kit

From Makershed "This crowd-wowing kit is simple to build and perfect for individuals, small groups or science classes. We included almost everything you need to get started right away — just add a bicycle pump, tape (masking, duct, electrical and Teflon recommended), two 9v batteries and you are ready to blast these paper and tape rockets hundreds of feet in the air with just a few pumps."
Full details, and a video, from

Makershed is the retail arm of Make magazine. It's a treasure chest of rare parts and interesting kits, I could easily spend hundreds of pounds there, but it isn't what I would call cheap.
This kit is a good example, everything you need is there and you can be confident of getting good results quite quickly, although a more experienced maker could probably make something just as good for far less.
I am sure that if you buy this you won't be disappointed but for those of us in the UK don't forget the ridiculous price we get charged postage and packaging. (Why is it always cheaper to ship from China than the US?

Monday, 19 November 2012

Arduino-Controlled Power Strip

Found Via Make: "Alberto Panu’s ArduPower is a 6-port power strip controlled with an Arduino Uno and ethernet shield. You control and monitor each line via telnet. "
Unfortunately the link to the authors site doesn't want to play ball, so I am  only guessing about what it does from the picture.

My initial thoughts are that this is an interesting product, especially with Christmas just around the corner when being able to control lights, decorations and other gadgets from a PC could be handy. 
Using a old PC or laptop you could sync them to sounds, turn them off automatically at night or even vary the patterns.  Come to think of it you could even allow them to be controlled over the web, although that's something I have never tried .
In the past you could control external devices from a computer using the parallel printer port or serial interface, but I haven't seen one of those on a new PC for years. Most interface projects tend to be USB based, however as this uses Ethernet it is going to have a much further range.
Judging by the authors name, I am guessing that this is not a UK based project, so we would have to design our own enclosure and connections to the mains. Personally this wouldn't bother me, but I am concerned that as Arduino is rightly popular with people who are new to engineering that we cold see some interesting, and potentially lethal, lash ups.
If you are considering trying this project, but have not worked with mains control before, then do yourself a favor and talk to an electrician first. Working with mains looks easy but it can bite, and quite often you won't get a second chance.
For full details (if you are lucky!) go to

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Robot Wars

Not many people know that in 2002 I was in a Robot Wars Team.  We built two robots, RuffStuff, which has a totally ineffective circular saw and TuffStuff which had a flipper.
It was a strategic decision they we would enter the feather weight category for several reasons
  • They are easier to build (my welding was really pants back then)
  • They are cheaper to build
  • 'Er indoors wouldn't let me keep a heavy weight robot at home
  • There was far less competition so a better chance of getting on the TV!


In the first year we built RuffStuff from plywood, aluminum strip and two electric drill motors. It went like stink but didn't have much grunt, however it was large and flat so I never met another feather wight that could flip it, which would not have been a problem because it ran upside down too!
In 2002 I decided to add the circular saw which took it up to Lightweight class, which was handy because only one other person entered that category so we were automatically guaranteed a place on the TV, unfortunately the other guy pulled out as all of his other robots had been trashed the previous day so he decided to go home. Mentorn tried to contact us but we had already left and didn't get the call until we arrived at the studio. The production staff were extremely nice, we were given VIP access to the pits, had a chance to go and meet all the main roboteers and presenters. Even though it was a long day, it was still  a great day out and we were pleased to have been a small part of it.

RuffStuff - Middle right, with go faster stripes. TuffStuff top left.
Your truly in the grand final. Andrew was in that too, so I have no idea who was taking this photo!


The following year we went to enter TuffStuff in Rex's Robot Challenge, a competition that tied up with "Real Robots Magazine. It was really for kids and my son, Andrew,  who was 14 at the time did most of the work, but he only came second in the heat to a robot that was supposedly built by a 10 year old. All I can say that it was damn good welding and soldering for somebody so young, who couldn't tell us what a sped controller was.!
Andrew changing the batteries on TuffSTuff during a practice session.
Andrew taking TuffStuff through the obstacle course at Microbots 2002. It was a clear round.

The House Robots. We never faced them but at our weight we would have been massacred.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Make: Calling All Covert Operators – Build a Bug with Weekend Projects

Another genius project form the folks over at Make:. This time its a covert listening device hidden in a book. I ma not sure that this is legal in this country, it might be but you might want to check that it is OK to transmit on that frequency in the UK.
The other thing to bear in mind is that if I caught somebody putting one of those near me I might not be too happy. However as an educational tool it might be fun.
For full project details go to

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Mr Rainsbury's Physics Experiment

For this demonstration a small gas cylinder was suspended under a wire which was stretched across the lab.
The piece of wood I was holding in my left hand had a nail sticking out, behind the cylinder. When I hit the cylinder with the hammer it would make a hole allowing the gas to escape rapidly, sending it shooting across the room at around 20meters per second.
With a little bit of maths you can use this to illustrate Newton's second law of motion, F=ma, and explain how rockets work.
It looks as if I hurt myself, but like many things this was a bit of theater to make it more memorable for the students.
It was shot by a student during a year 10 class during my first ever term as a teacher, I didn't know at this point that it was almost a capital crime. I can't publish his name, but he went to study A-Level physics with me a few years later and got quite a good grade :-)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Balloon & Kite Mapping

What is Public Laboratory?

"Public Lab is a community where you can learn how to investigate environmental concerns. Using inexpensive DIY techniques, we seek to change how people see the world in environmental, social, and political terms"

Why Balloons and Kites?

"These tools are being developed to provide a low cost, easy to use, and safe methods for making maps and aerial images. Over the last two years, we’ve built a global community of mappers who are engaged in discussion around the development and use of this tool and others.
Normally aerial maps are made from satellites and airplanes. The balloon and kite ground-based approach introduces an on-demand capability where events or environmental conditions are mapped at a specific moment in time. Our community is particularly interested in applying this to civic and environmental issues."

Click here for full details for how you can try this

The Public Laboratory

Public Lab is a community where you can learn how to investigate environmental concerns. Using inexpensive DIY techniques, we seek to change how people see the world in environmental, social, and political terms.
Community members develop tools and write open source instructions as research notes, wiki pages, printable guides, and videos, so others know how to use these tools, and many have started local groups in their area. We also provide support through our mailing lists. This works because everyone both learns from and helps each other out, and we all contribute to the growing body of documentation as we go.

Join now to take part!

This community began as the Grassroots Mapping project, an effort to produce Do-It-Yourself satellite imagery with balloons and kites, most notably during the 2010 BP oil spill. We are now broadening our scope to explore new inexpensive and community-led means to measure and explore environmental and social issues.

For more details of the Public Laboratory, go to

Have a look over at Make magazine for a one of their projects using a Raspberry Pi for Aerial mapping.

Make: MR-808 Brings Vintage Drum Machine to Life

Another totally bonkers project over on Make is from Moritz Simon Geist who has built a physical representation of the classic Roland Drum machine the TR-808.
Each of the boxes contains a real instrument, driven by solenoids, to mimic the venerable Roland box, all of which is controlled by a central electronics unit.
Apart from that I have no idea how this works so check out the full article at

Make: Freeform Arduino Bliss

I found this brilliantly barking mad project over on Make "Kimio Kosaka soldered together quite a unique Arduino clone. The entire board is done freeform, with no PCB whatsoever. Based on a Metaboard, Kosaka designed and printed the layout in Eagle CAD. He used the printout as a template to bend steel wires into place to make the connections. Despite using a method that’s known for its delicacy, the final product looks surprisingly robust."

Find the original article over at

Raspberry Pi to Arduino shields connection bridge

Quite amazingly I had two e-mails arrive today pointing me to the same site, one via the Scott Hanselman blog I mentioned earlier and another from somebody commenting on an article called "It's a good time to be an embedded systems programmer." which I posted a few weeks ago.

In that I suggested that t might be a year before the PI caught up with the Arduino in terms of hardware support, but I was wrong. You can buy a PCB that allows you to use Arduino shields with your PI so effectively it has already caught up!

There seems to be a library of support routines available so it shouldn't be too hard to put together a fully working system quite quickly, certainly faster than making designing your own PCB or laying it out on Veroboard and hand crafting your on software.

Its 40 Euros, which is more than some of the shields, but it is reusable so can be used again and again, so I can see it being a useful thing to have around. Even when hardware support for the PI builds up the Arduino has a heck of a lead and I doubt it will be overtaken for years, so I don't think it will end up in the bin any time soon.

One word of warning, I am sure I read that the first batch of Chinese Raspberry PIs had a different pin out to the current ones which are made in Wales. This has to make a difference, but I am not sure if this is a showstopper or just something to bear in mind.

Either way take a look for yourself at

Friday, 9 November 2012

Scott Hanselman: Seventeen Awesome Raspberry Pi Projects

Scott Hanselman runs a terrific blog full of Raspberry Goodness over at

Yesterday he published a list of terrific PI articles and projects that I had never heard of, some a bit esoteric, others I could instantly see a use for, either way if you are a fan of your own PI then go take a look, you won't be disappointed

Extract from the blog: "These are some exciting and fun projects for you to explore with Raspberry Pi that might make your Pi feel more useful and get you playing today!
For the full website go to

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Observer: Everyone wants a slice of Raspberry Pi

"The £25 programmable computer invented by British scientists has turned into a global sensation. Will it encourage kids to teach themselves code, or just end up in the hands of nerds?"
This is the question asked by the UK newspaper "the observer"  a good six months after the product became available to the public.
I found the article a little patronizing. The journalist doesn't show any real understanding, but that might be deliberate and it wanders through the normal middle England misconceptions and misunderstandings that seem to come with anything technical.
How many time have you come across people that think just because they can't understand something it must be really hard? If you try to explain its not that hard and the real problem is with the then you become labelled Nerd or Geek. I am happy with that, rather a Geek than an ignoramus.
If you found it via this website then there probably wont be anything new, but see what other people think about the PI at

Maker Shed: Prototyping Pi Plate Kit for Raspberry Pi

"Are you ready to make some embedded projects with your Raspberry Pi? The Prototyping Pi Plate Kit fits right on top of your Raspberry Pi to give you plenty of prototyping goodness.

The Pi Plate features several goodies. It has a large prototyping area with "breadboard style" and "perfboard" style traces for chips, sensors, etc. Along the edges of the proto area, all the GPIO/I2C/SPI and power pins are broken out for easy connection. On the edges of the prototyping area, all of the breakout pins are connected to labeled 3.5mm screw-terminal blocks. This way you can semi-permanently attache wires, sensors, LEDs, etc. Finally, it has a SOIC surface mount chip breakout area just in case you need it."

For ordering details goto

At least they didn't call it a "shield", like they do for Arduino :-)

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Adam Savage’s Tools

 I always though that my toolkits were full of useful junk, however an entry on the Make: blog made me realize that it is nothing compared to that of Adam "Mythbusters" Savage
This has to be one of the best tool kits I have ever seen, check out the full details in wired magazines article

Jason Bradbury sings Happy Birthday to me!

My Son ran into Jason Bradbury, off the Gadget Show, at the UK launch of Halo 4 and got him to make this early birthday present, brilliant :-)

Saturday, 3 November 2012

New in the Maker Shed: Arduino Mini R05

Arduino recently updated their small form-factor Arduino Mini and it’s now shipping from the Maker Shed. The Arduino Mini R05 is based on the same ATmega 328 processor as the Arduino Uno, but measures a scant 1.25″x0.73″ making it perfect for breadboards and embedded applications. The R05 update includes a new, smaller chip package and a revised PCB making it possible to fit all the components on the top of the board. It also features a reset button which was lacking in previous versions. Like the earlier models, the Mini R05 requires the use of an FTDI breakout such as the FTDI Friend for programming.

Technical Specifications

  • Microcontroller -  ATmega328
  • Operating Voltage – 5V
  • Input Voltage – 7-9 V
  • Digital I/O Pins – 14 (of which 6 provide PWM output)
  • Analog Input Pins – 8 (of which 4 are broken out onto pins)
  • DC Current per I/O Pin – 40 mA
  • Flash Memory – 32 KB (of which 2 KB used by bootloader)
  • SRAM – 2 KB
  • EEPROM – 1 KB
  • Clock Speed – 16 MHz
Price $33.99

Make: Mark Crosbie’s Lego Drum Sequencer

 Another Lego project from Make to bring a smile to your face.

"SoundMachine is an interactive music tool to collaboratively develop music. SoundMachine scans 2×2 colour LEGO bricks arranged in 4 tracks of 8 beats. The colour information is converted to MIDI messages by a Processing sketch, which sends MIDI to Ableton Live to play the instruments"

More details from

A month in space: quantum teleportation, a shuttle's final flight and mysterious Martian spheres – in pictures

Amazing article on the guardian website showing some fantastic pictures from space.

"On 7 September, Nasa astronaut Joe Acaba (left) and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin (centre and right) conducted a 'suit leak check' in the Soyuz spacecraft in preparation for their return to Earth on 16 September"

More details from

Adafruit: Voiceberry Pi #piday #raspberrypi @Raspberry_Pi

Well the Americans seem to have really taken to our, British, Raspberry PI but then we always were their first with all the good stuff :-)
I ma not completely sure what he is planning to do here as he is referring to a service called Magic Jack, which apparently we have all heard of, well not outside the US we haven't, but with a project that sounds as interesting as this could be then I will definitely be checking back next week for the final installment.
Full details from

6 top uses of a Raspberry Pi

Not a completely original list here from 123-reg, at least three of them we have already shown, but worth another look never the less
  • Create a voice-controlled robot
  • Create a high-altitude Weather droid
  • Create a KindleBerry Pi
  • Create an arcade machine
  • Create a drinks vending machine
  • Build a Supercomputer

More details from

New in the Maker Shed – ELEV-8 Quadcopter Kit

I really want one of these to experiment with but I would agree with 'er indoors that this one at $599 is a lot of money.

It seems to come with all the necessary bits to get it flying, motors, propellers, speed controller, main control board and frame but  not the radio control gear or battery which is going to push this well on towards $700 or £450 in the Queens own currency. Not sure about P&P, if I was looking for one I would probably start by looking in the UK first.

Surely you could make one out of Lego Technic, I mean to say, how hard can it be:?

If however the ELEV-9 floats your boat then find out more from

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Mr Rainsbury's Physics

Hummingbird: Arts, Crafts, Robots!

"The Hummingbird robotics kit is a spin-off product of Carnegie Mellon's CREATE lab.
Hummingbird is designed to enable engineering and robotics activities for ages 10 and up that involve the making of robots, kinetic sculptures, and animatronics built out of a combination of kit parts and crafting materials.
Combined with a cross-platform, very easy-to-use visual programming environment, Hummingbird provides a great way to introduce kids to robotics and engineering with construction materials that they are already familiar with"
Don't get too excited though until you see the price, this one will set you back $199

The AFRON "10 Dollar Robot" Design Challenge

"The goal of the AFRON "10 Dollar Robot" Design Challenge, which ran from 15 June to 15 September 2012, was to design a new class of affordable robots for learning (especially in primary and secondary schools)"
The results were fantastic, and there were some truly clever and detailed designs and I can thoroughly recommend checking out the details of contestants here

Make: Pi Crust Breakout Board for Raspberry Pi

Copied from Make. "Got a Raspberry Pi and want to explore i/o options while maintaining the overall footprint of your project? If the answer is yes, then checkout maker Joe WalnesPi Crust breakout board. With convenient headers and clear labels, the Pi Crust is the a great choice when you want to cram as much as you can into a tight enclosure. But don’t expect to buy one off-the-shelf. If you want a Pi Crust, you’ll have to order the parts and assemble it yourself."

Raspberry Pi and Lego again

Not the prettiest of all Pi enclosures, but getting on for one of the most interesting.
It has space for four Pis in Adafruit cases and a netgear router all held together in one case. 
I am planning o cluster mine, in which case (pun!) I am going to have to think about something similar, but I don't want to use up my precious lego!
I will probably end up using an old 19" rack that I have spare, and mounting each Pi on a piece of 6" x 4" perspex along with a cheap USB hub and a 9V Regulator so that I can power them both from a single 9V DC supply.
But that's a long way away after I have finished the modular synthesizer, the drone etc....

For full details of this superb project go to  Modular rack for four Raspberry Pis in PCSL/Adafruit case + USB hdd + switch

In the Maker Shed: Getting Started with Arduino Kit

From Maker Shed
Are you interested in learning more about Arduino but don’t know where to begin? Check out the Getting Started with Arduino Kit available in the Maker Shed! This popular kit includes everything you need to form a solid foundation with the Arduino microcontroller. The components in the kit match perfectly with Massimo Banzi’s latest Getting Started with Arduino, 2nd Edition book (not included, but discounted when purchased with the kit) or with the tutorials available online.

Kit Includes:
  • (1) Arduino UNO Revision 3
  • (1) USB Cable
  • (1) 9V Battery Pack w/DC Plug (requires soldering)
  • (1) 9V Battery
  • (1) Clear Breadboard
  • (1) Deluxe Jumper Wire Kit
  • (2) Red LEDs
  • (2) Green LEDs
  • (2) Blue LEDs
  • (1) RGB LED
  • (10) 10K Ohm Resistors
  • (10) 220 Ohm Resistors
  • (10) 270 Ohm Resistors
  • (2) Photo Resistors
  • (1) Momentary Button 
  • Price $64.99

Use your Wii Remote as a MIDI controller! (Tutorial)

I found this fun project over on the Make blog.

"Use your Wii Remote as a MIDI controller!  Controlling your favorite music software with a Wii Remote is actually much easier than you might imagine.  You don't have to hack your Wii Remote or buy expensive software.  In fact, the software is free and you most likely already have the hardware.  This tutorial covers basic instructions for use with a PC.  It is possible to do this with a Mac but it will require different software."

Full details of the tutorial can be found at

If you liked this you might also be interested in their Tennis Ball & Lego Ableton Controller