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