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Earlier this spring, an excited group of STEM educators came together to participate in the first ever Raspberry Pi and Arduino workshop in Puerto Rico.
Their three-day digital making adventure was led by MakerTechPR’s José Rullán and Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Alex Martínez. They ran the event as part of the Robot Makers challenge organized by Yees! and sponsored by Puerto Rico’s Department of Economic Development and Trade to promote entrepreneurial skills within Puerto Rico’s education system.
Over 30 educators attended the workshop, which covered the use of the Raspberry Pi 3 as a computer and digital making resource. The educators received a kit consisting of a Raspberry Pi 3 with an Explorer HAT Pro and an Arduino Uno. At the end of the workshop, the educators were able to keep the kit as a demonstration unit for their classrooms. They were enthusiastic to learn new concepts and immerse themselves in the world of physical computing.
In their first session, the educators were introduced to the Raspberry Pi as an affordable technology for robotic clubs. In their second session, they explored physical computing and the coding languages needed to control the Explorer HAT Pro. They started off coding with Scratch, with which some educators had experience, and ended with controlling the GPIO pins with Python. In the final session, they learned how to develop applications using the powerful combination of Arduino and Raspberry Pi for robotics projects. This gave them a better understanding of how they could engage their students in physical computing.
“The Raspberry Pi ecosystem is the perfect solution in the classroom because to us it is very resourceful and accessible.” – Alex Martínez
Computer science and robotics courses are important for many schools and teachers in Puerto Rico. The simple idea of programming a microcontroller from a $35 computer increases the chances of more students having access to more technology to create things.
Puerto Rico’s education system has faced enormous challenges after Hurricane Maria, including economic collapse and the government’s closure of many schools due to the exodus of families from the island. By attending training like this workshop, educators in Puerto Rico are becoming more experienced in fields like robotics in particular, which are key for 21st-century skills and learning. This, in turn, can lead to more educational opportunities, and hopefully the reopening of more schools on the island.
“We find it imperative that our children be taught STEM disciplines and skills. Our goal is to continue this work of spreading digital making and computer science using the Raspberry Pi around Puerto Rico. We want our children to have the best education possible.” – Alex Martínez
After attending Picademy in 2016, Alex has integrated the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s online resources into his classroom. He has also taught small workshops around the island and in the local Puerto Rican makerspace community. José is an electrical engineer, entrepreneur, educator and hobbyist who enjoys learning to use technology and sharing his knowledge through projects and challenges.
If your day has been a little fraught so far, watch this video. It opens with a tableau of methodically laid-out components and then shows them soldered, screwed, and slotted neatly into place. Everything fits perfectly; nothing needs percussive adjustment. Then it shows us glimpses of an AR future just like the one promised in the less dystopian comics and TV programmes of my 1980s childhood. It is all very soothing, and exactly what I needed.
Transform any surface into mixed-reality using Raspberry Pi, a laser projector, and Android Things. Android Experiments – http://experiments.withgoogle.com/android/lantern Lantern project site – http://nordprojects.co/lantern check below to make your own ↓↓↓ Get the code – https://github.com/nordprojects/lantern Build the lamp – https://www.hackster.io/nord-projects/lantern-9f0c28
Creating augmented reality with projection
We’ve seen plenty of Raspberry Pi IoT builds that are smart devices for the home; they add computing power to things like lights, door locks, or toasters to make these objects interact with humans and with their environment in new ways. Nord Projects‘ Lantern takes a different approach. In their words, it:
imagines a future where projections are used to present ambient information, and relevant UI within everyday objects. Point it at a clock to show your appointments, or point to speaker to display the currently playing song. Unlike a screen, when Lantern’s projections are no longer needed, they simply fade away.
Lantern is set up so that you can connect your wireless device to it using Google Nearby. This means there’s no need to create an account before you can dive into augmented reality.
Your own open-source AR lamp
Nord Projects collaborated on Lantern with Google’s Android Things team. They’ve made it fully open-source, so you can find the code on GitHub and also download their parts list, which includes a Pi, an IKEA lamp, an accelerometer, and a laser projector. Build instructions are at hackster.io and on GitHub.
This is a particularly clear tutorial, very well illustrated with photos and GIFs, and once you’ve sourced and 3D-printed all of the components, you shouldn’t need a whole lot of experience to put everything together successfully. Since everything is open-source, though, if you want to adapt it — for example, if you’d like to source a less costly projector than the snazzy one used here — you can do that too.
The instructions walk you through the mechanical build and the wiring, as well as installing Android Things and Nord Projects’ custom software on the Raspberry Pi. Once you’ve set everything up, an accelerometer connected to the Pi’s GPIO pins lets the lamp know which surface it is pointing at. A companion app on your mobile device lets you choose from the mini apps that work on that surface to select the projection you want.
The designers are making several mini apps available for Lantern, including the charmingly named Space Porthole: this uses Processing and your local longitude and latitude to project onto your ceiling the stars you’d see if you punched a hole through to the sky, if it were night time, and clear weather. Wouldn’t you rather look at that than deal with the ant problem in your kitchen or tackle your GitHub notifications?
What would you like to project onto your living environment? Let us know in the comments!
Students taking Design of Mechatronics at the Technical University of Denmark have created some seriously elegant and striking Raspberry Pi speakers. Their builds are part of a project asking them to “explore, design and build a 3D printed speaker, around readily available electronics and components”.
The students have been uploading their designs, incorporating Raspberry Pis and HiFiBerry HATs, to Thingiverse throughout April. The task is a collaboration with luxury brand Bang & Olufsen’s Create initiative, and the results wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end showroom; I’d happily take any of these home.
Tue Thomsen’s six-person team Mechatastic have produced the B&O TILE. “The speaker consists of four 3D-printed cabinet and top parts, where the top should be covered by fabric,” they explain. “The speaker insides consists of laser-cut wood to hold the tweeter and driver and encase the Raspberry Pi.”
The team aimed to design a speaker that would be at home in a kitchen. With a removable upper casing allowing for a choice of colour, the TILE can be customised to fit particular tastes and colour schemes.
Build your own speakers with Raspberry Pis
Raspberry Pi’s onboard audio jack, along with third-party HATs such as the HiFiBerry and Pimoroni Speaker pHAT, make speaker design and fabrication with the Pi an interesting alternative to pre-made tech. These builds don’t tend to be technically complex, and they provide some lovely examples of tech-based projects that reflect makers’ own particular aesthetic style.
If you have access to a 3D printer or a laser cutter, perhaps at a nearby maker space, then those can be excellent resources, but fancy kit isn’t a requirement. Basic joinery and crafting with card or paper are just a couple of ways you can build things that are all your own, using familiar tools and materials. We think more people would enjoy getting hands-on with this sort of thing if they gave it a whirl, and we publish a free magazine to help.
Looking for a new project to build around the Raspberry Pi Zero, I came across the pHAT DAC from Pimoroni. This little add-on board adds audio playback capabilities to the Pi Zero. Because the pHAT uses the GPIO pins, the USB OTG port remains available for a wifi dongle.
This video by Frederick Vandenbosch is a great example of building AirPlay speakers using a Pi and HAT, and a quick search will find you lots more relevant tutorials and ideas.
Have you built your own? Share your speaker-based Pi builds with us in the comments.
In this article from The MagPi issue 69, David Crookes explains how Daniel Berrangé took an old Kodak Brownie from the 1950s and turned it into a quirky digital camera. Get your copy of The MagPi magazine in stores now, or download it as a free PDF here.
The Kodak Box Brownie
When Kodak unveiled its Box Brownie in 1900, it did so with the slogan ‘You press the button, we do the rest.’ The words referred to the ease-of-use of what was the world’s first mass-produced camera. But it could equally apply to Daniel Berrangé’s philosophy when modifying it for the 21st century. “I wanted to use the Box Brownie’s shutter button to trigger image capture, and make it simple to use,” he tells us.
Daniel’s project grew from a previous effort in which he placed a pinhole webcam inside a ladies’ powder compact case. “The Box Brownie project is essentially a repeat of that design but with a normal lens instead of a pinhole, a real camera case, and improved software to enable a shutter button. Ideally, it would look unchanged from when it was shooting film.”
At first, Daniel looked for a cheap webcam, intending to spend no more than the price of a Pi Zero. This didn’t work out too well. “The low-light performance of the webcam was not sufficient to make a pinhole camera so I just decided to make a ‘normal’ digital camera instead,” he reveals. To that end, he began removing some internal components from the Box Brownie. “With the original lens removed, the task was to position the webcam’s electronic light sensor (the CCD) and lens as close to the front of the camera as possible,” Daniel explains. “In the end, the CCD was about 15 mm away from the front aperture of the camera, giving a field of view that was approximately the same as the unmodified camera would achieve.”
It was then time for him to insert the Raspberry Pi, upon which was a custom ‘init’ binary that loads a couple of kernel modules to run the webcam, mount the microSD file system, and launch the application binary. Here, Daniel found he was in luck. “I’d noticed that the size of a 620 film spool (63 mm) was effectively the same as the width of a Raspberry Pi Zero (65 mm), so it could be held in place between the film spool grips,” he recalls. “It was almost as if it was designed with this in mind.”
In order to operate the camera, Daniel had to work on the shutter button. “The Box Brownie’s shutter button is entirely mechanical, driven by a handful of levers and springs,” Daniel explains. “First, the Pi Zero needs to know when the shutter button is pressed and second, the physical shutter has to be open while the webcam is capturing the image. Rather than try to synchronise image capture with the fraction of a second that the physical shutter is open, a bit of electrical tape was used on the shutter mechanism to keep it permanently open.”
Daniel made use of the Pi Zero’s GPIO pins to detect the pressing of the shutter button. It determines if each pin is at 0 or 5 volts. “My thought was that I could set a GPIO pin high to 5 V, and then use the action of the shutter button to short it to ground, and detect this change in level from software.”
This initially involved using a pair of bare wires and some conductive paint, although the paint was later replaced by a piece of tinfoil. But with the button pressed, the GPIO pin level goes to zero and the device constantly captures still images until the button is released. All that’s left to do is smile and take the perfect snap.
Last week, we shared the first half of our Q&A with Raspberry Pi Trading CEO and Raspberry Pi creator Eben Upton. Today we follow up with all your other questions, including your expectations for a Raspberry Pi 4, Eben’s dream add-ons, and whether we really could go smaller than the Zero.
Get your questions to us now using #AskRaspberryPi on Twitter
With internet security becoming more necessary, will there be automated versions of VPN on an SD card?
There are already third-party tools which turn your Raspberry Pi into a VPN endpoint. Would we do it ourselves? Like the power button, it’s one of those cases where there are a million things we could do and so it’s more efficient to let the community get on with it.
Just to give a counterexample, while we don’t generally invest in optimising for particular use cases, we did invest a bunch of money into optimising Kodi to run well on Raspberry Pi, because we found that very large numbers of people were using it. So, if we find that we get half a million people a year using a Raspberry Pi as a VPN endpoint, then we’ll probably invest money into optimising it and feature it on the website as we’ve done with Kodi. But I don’t think we’re there today.
Have you ever seen any Pis running and doing important jobs in the wild, and if so, how does it feel?
It’s amazing how often you see them driving displays, for example in radio and TV studios. Of course, it feels great. There’s something wonderful about the geographic spread as well. The Raspberry Pi desktop is quite distinctive, both in its previous incarnation with the grey background and logo, and the current one where we have Greg Annandale’s road picture.
And so it’s funny when you see it in places. Somebody sent me a video of them teaching in a classroom in rural Pakistan and in the background was Greg’s picture.
Raspberry Pi 4!?!
There will be a Raspberry Pi 4, obviously. We get asked about it a lot. I’m sticking to the guidance that I gave people that they shouldn’t expect to see a Raspberry Pi 4 this year. To some extent, the opportunity to do the 3B+ was a surprise: we were surprised that we’ve been able to get 200MHz more clock speed, triple the wireless and wired throughput, and better thermals, and still stick to the $35 price point.
We’re up against the wall from a silicon perspective; we’re at the end of what you can do with the 40nm process. It’s not that you couldn’t clock the processor faster, or put a larger processor which can execute more instructions per clock in there, it’s simply about the energy consumption and the fact that you can’t dissipate the heat. So we’ve got to go to a smaller process node and that’s an order of magnitude more challenging from an engineering perspective. There’s more effort, more risk, more cost, and all of those things are challenging.
With 3B+ out of the way, we’re going to start looking at this now. For the first six months or so we’re going to be figuring out exactly what people want from a Raspberry Pi 4. We’re listening to people’s comments about what they’d like to see in a new Raspberry Pi, and I’m hoping by early autumn we should have an idea of what we want to put in it and a strategy for how we might achieve that.
Could you go smaller than the Zero?
The challenge with Zero as that we’re periphery-limited. If you run your hand around the unit, there is no edge of that board that doesn’t have something there. So the question is: “If you want to go smaller than Zero, what feature are you willing to throw out?”
It’s a single-sided board, so you could certainly halve the PCB area if you fold the circuitry and use both sides, though you’d have to lose something. You could give up some GPIO and go back to 26 pins like the first Raspberry Pi. You could give up the camera connector, you could go to micro HDMI from mini HDMI. You could remove the SD card and just do USB boot. I’m inventing a product live on air! But really, you could get down to two thirds and lose a bunch of GPIO – it’s hard to imagine you could get to half the size.
What’s the one feature that you wish you could outfit on the Raspberry Pi that isn’t cost effective at this time? Your dream feature.
Well, more memory. There are obviously technical reasons why we don’t have more memory on there, but there are also market reasons. People ask “why doesn’t the Raspberry Pi have more memory?”, and my response is typically “go and Google ‘DRAM price’”. We’re used to the price of memory going down. And currently, we’re going through a phase where this has turned around and memory is getting more expensive again.
Machine learning would be interesting. There are machine learning accelerators which would be interesting to put on a piece of hardware. But again, they are not going to be used by everyone, so according to our method of pricing what we might add to a board, machine learning gets treated like a $50 chip. But that would be lovely to do.
Which citizen science projects using the Pi have most caught your attention?
I like the wildlife camera projects. We live out in the countryside in a little village, and we’re conscious of being surrounded by nature but we don’t see a lot of it on a day-to-day basis. So I like the nature cam projects, though, to my everlasting shame, I haven’t set one up yet. There’s a range of them, from very professional products to people taking a Raspberry Pi and a camera and putting them in a plastic box. So those are good fun.
How does it feel to go to bed every day knowing you’ve changed the world for the better in such a massive way?
What feels really good is that when we started this in 2006 nobody else was talking about it, but now we’re part of a very broad movement.
We were in a really bad way: we’d seen a collapse in the number of applicants applying to study Computer Science at Cambridge and elsewhere. In our view, this reflected a move away from seeing technology as ‘a thing you do’ to seeing it as a ‘thing that you have done to you’. It is problematic from the point of view of the economy, industry, and academia, but most importantly it damages the life prospects of individual children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The great thing about STEM subjects is that you can’t fake being good at them. There are a lot of industries where your Dad can get you a job based on who he knows and then you can kind of muddle along. But if your dad gets you a job building bridges and you suck at it, after the first or second bridge falls down, then you probably aren’t going to be building bridges anymore. So access to STEM education can be a great driver of social mobility.
By the time we were launching the Raspberry Pi in 2012, there was this wonderful movement going on. Code Club, for example, and CoderDojo came along. Lots of different ways of trying to solve the same problem. What feels really, really good is that we’ve been able to do this as part of an enormous community. And some parts of that community became part of the Raspberry Pi Foundation – we merged with Code Club, we merged with CoderDojo, and we continue to work alongside a lot of these other organisations. So in the two seconds it takes me to fall asleep after my face hits the pillow, that’s what I think about.
We’re currently advertising a Programme Manager role in New Delhi, India. Did you ever think that Raspberry Pi would be advertising a role like this when you were bringing together the Foundation?
No, I didn’t.
But if you told me we were going to be hiring somewhere, India probably would have been top of my list because there’s a massive IT industry in India. When we think about our interaction with emerging markets, India, in a lot of ways, is the poster child for how we would like it to work. There have already been some wonderful deployments of Raspberry Pi, for example in Kerala, without our direct involvement. And we think we’ve got something that’s useful for the Indian market. We have a product, we have clubs, we have teacher training. And we have a body of experience in how to teach people, so we have a physical commercial product as well as a charitable offering that we think are a good fit.
It’s going to be massive.
What is your favourite BBC type-in listing?
There was a game called Codename: Druid. There is a famous game called Codename: Droid which was the sequel to Stryker’s Run, which was an awesome, awesome game. And there was a type-in game called Codename: Druid, which was at the bottom end of what you would consider a commercial game.
And I remember typing that in. And what was really cool about it was that the next month, the guy who wrote it did another article that talks about the memory map and which operating system functions used which bits of memory. So if you weren’t going to do disc access, which bits of memory could you trample on and know the operating system would survive.
I still like type-in listings. The Raspberry Pi 2018 Annual has a type-in listing that I wrote for a Babbage versus Bugs game. I will say that’s not the last type-in listing you will see from me in the next twelve months. And if you download the PDF, you could probably copy and paste it into your favourite text editor to save yourself some time.
A simple Raspberry Pi based project using TCS3200 Color Sensor. The project demonstrates how to interface a Color Sensor (like TCS3200) with Raspberry Pi and implement a simple Color Detector using Raspberry Pi.
What is a TCS3200 colour sensor?
Colour sensors sense reflected light from nearby objects. The bright light of the TCS3200’s on-board white LEDs hits an object’s surface and is reflected back. The sensor has an 8×8 array of photodiodes, which are covered by either a red, blue, green, or clear filter. The type of filter determines what colour a diode can detect. Then the overall colour of an object is determined by how much light of each colour it reflects. (For example, a red object reflects mostly red light.)
As Electronics Hub explains:
TCS3200 is one of the easily available colour sensors that students and hobbyists can work on. It is basically a light-to-frequency converter, i.e. based on colour and intensity of the light falling on it, the frequency of its output signal varies.
I’ll save you a physics lesson here, but you can find a detailed explanation of colour sensing and the TCS3200 on the Electronics Hub blog.
Raspberry Pi colour sensor
The TCS3200 colour sensor is connected to several of the onboard General Purpose Input Output (GPIO) pins on the Raspberry Pi.
These connections allow the Raspberry Pi 3 to run one of two Python scripts that Electronics Hub has written for the project. The first displays the RAW RGB values read by the sensor. The second detects the primary colours red, green, and blue, and it can be expanded for more colours with the help of the first script.
Electronic Hub’s complete build uses a breadboard for simply prototyping
Use it in your projects
This colour sensing setup is a simple means of adding a new dimension to your builds. Why not build a candy-sorting robot that organises your favourite sweets by colour? Or add colour sensing to your line-following buggy to allow for multiple path options!
If your Raspberry Pi project uses colour sensing, we’d love to see it, so be sure to share it in the comments!
Looking to incorporate some digital making into your Easter weekend? You’ve come to the right place! With a Raspberry Pi, a few wires, and some simple code, you can take your festivities to the next level — here’s how!
If you logged in to watch our Instagram live-stream yesterday, you’ll have seen me put together a simple egg carton and some wires to create circuits. These circuits, when closed by way of a foil-wrapped chocolate egg, instruct a Raspberry Pi to reveal the whereabouts of a larger chocolate egg!
You’ll need an egg carton, two male-to-female jumper wire, and two crocodile leads for each egg you use.
Connect your leads together in pairs: one end of a crocodile lead to the male end of one jumper wire. Attach the free crocodile clips of two leads to each corner of the egg carton (as shown up top). Then hook up the female ends to GPIO pins: one numbered pin and one ground pin per egg. I recommend pins 3, 4, 18 and 24, as they all have adjacent GND pins.
Your foil-wrapped Easter egg will complete the circuit — make sure it’s touching both the GPIO- and GND-connected clips when resting in the carton.
For your convenience (and our sweet tooth), we tested several foil-wrapped eggs (Easter and otherwise) to see which are conductive.
We’re egg-sperimenting with Easter deliciousness to find which treat is the most conductive. Why? All will be revealed in our Instagram Easter live-stream tomorrow.
The result? None of them are! But if you unwrap an egg and rewrap it with the non-decorative foil side outward, this tends to work. You could also use aluminium foil or copper tape to create a conductive layer.
Next, you’ll need to create the code for your hunt. The script below contains the bare bones needed to make the project work — you can embellish it however you wish using GUIs, flashing LEDs, music, etc.
Open Thonny or IDLE on Raspbian and create a new file called egghunt.py. Then enter the following code:
We’re using ButtonBoard from the gpiozero library. This allows us to link several buttons together as an object and set an action for when any number of the buttons are pressed. Here, the script waits for all four circuits to be completed before printing the location of the prize in the Python shell.
And that’s it! Now you just need to hide your small foil eggs around the house and challenge your kids/friends/neighbours to find them. Then, once every circuit is completed with an egg, the great prize will be revealed.
Give it a go this weekend! And if you do, be sure to let us know on social media.
(Thank you to Lauren Hyams for suggesting we “do something for Easter” and Ben ‘gpiozero’ Nuttall for introducing me to ButtonBoard.)
This video presents the project MoveLens: a voice controlled glasses with magnifying lens. It was the my entry for the Voice Activated context on unstructables. Check the step by step guide at Voice Controlled Glasses With Magnifying Lens. Source code: https://github.com/pichiliani/MoveLens Step by Step guide: https://www.instructables.com/id/Voice-Controlled-Glasses-With-Magnifying-Lens/
It’s a kind of magnification
We’ve all been there – that moment when you need another pair of hands to complete a task. And while these glasses may not hold all the answers, they’re a perfect addition to any hobbyist’s arsenal.
Introducing Mauro Pichilliani’s voice-activated glasses: a pair of frames with magnification lenses that can flip up and down in response to a voice command, depending on the task at hand. No more needing to put down your tools in order to put magnifying glasses on. No more trying to re-position a magnifying glass with the back of your left wrist, or getting grease all over your lenses.
As Mauro explains in his tutorial for the glasses:
Many professionals work for many hours looking at very small areas, such as surgeons, watchmakers, jewellery designers and so on. Most of the time these professionals use some kind of magnification glasses that helps them to see better the area they are working with and other tiny items used on the job. The devices that had magnifications lens on a form factor of a glass usually allow the professional to move the lens out of their eye sight, i.e. put aside the lens. However, in some scenarios touching the lens or the glass rim to move away the lens can contaminate the fingers. Also, it is cumbersome and can break the concentration of the professional.
The glasses Mauro modified, before he started work on them; you have to move the lenses with your hands, like it’s October 2015
Mauro started by dismantling a pair of standard magnification glasses in order to modify the lens supports to allow them to move freely. He drilled a hole in one of the lens supports to provide a place to attach the servo, and used lollipop sticks and hot glue to fix the lenses relative to one another, so they would both move together under the control of the servo. Then, he set up a Raspberry Pi Zero, installing Raspbian and software to use a USB microphone; after connecting the servo to the Pi Zero’s GPIO pins, he set up the Watson speech-to-text service.
Finally, he wrote the code to bring the project together. Two Python scripts direct the servo to raise and lower the lenses, and a Node.js script captures audio from the microphone, passes it on to Watson, checks for an “up” or “down” command, and calls the appropriate Python script as required.
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that today is 28 February, which is as close as you’re going to get to our sixth birthday, given that we launched on a leap day. For the last three years, we’ve launched products on or around our birthday: Raspberry Pi 2 in 2015; Raspberry Pi 3 in 2016; and Raspberry Pi Zero W in 2017. But today is a snow day here at Pi Towers, so rather than launching something, we’re taking a photo tour of the last six years of Raspberry Pi products before we don our party hats for the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend this Saturday and Sunday.
Before there was Raspberry Pi, there was the Broadcom BCM2763 ‘micro DB’, designed, as it happens, by our very own Roger Thornton. This was the first thing we demoed as a Raspberry Pi in May 2011, shown here running an ARMv6 build of Ubuntu 9.04.
BCM2763 micro DB
Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi, 2011-style
A few months later, along came the first batch of 50 “alpha boards”, designed for us by Broadcom. I used to have a spreadsheet that told me where in the world each one of these lived. These are the first “real” Raspberry Pis, built around the BCM2835 application processor and LAN9512 USB hub and Ethernet adapter; remarkably, a software image taken from the download page today will still run on them.
Raspberry Pi alpha board
We shot some great demos with this board, including this video of Quake III:
A little something for the weekend: here’s Eben showing the Raspberry Pi running Quake 3, and chatting a bit about the performance of the board. Thanks to Rob Bishop and Dave Emett for getting the demo running.
Pete spent the second half of 2011 turning the alpha board into a shippable product, and just before Christmas we produced the first 20 “beta boards”, 10 of which were sold at auction, raising over £10000 for the Foundation.
Beta boards on parade
Here’s Dom, demoing both the board and his excellent taste in movie trailers:
See http://www.raspberrypi.org/ for more details, FAQ and forum.
Rather to Pete’s surprise, I took his beta board design (with a manually-added polygon in the Gerbers taking the place of Paul Grant’s infamous red wire), and ordered 2000 units from Egoman in China. After a few hiccups, units started to arrive in Cambridge, and on 29 February 2012, Raspberry Pi went on sale for the first time via our partners element14 and RS Components.
The first 2000 Raspberry Pis
The first Raspberry Pi from the first box from the first pallet
We took over 100000 orders on the first day: something of a shock for an organisation that had imagined in its wildest dreams that it might see lifetime sales of 10000 units. Some people who ordered that day had to wait until the summer to finally receive their units.
Even as we struggled to catch up with demand, we were working on ways to improve the design. We quickly replaced the USB polyfuses in the top right-hand corner of the board with zero-ohm links to reduce IR drop. If you have a board with polyfuses, it’s a real limited edition; even more so if it also has Hynix memory. Pete’s “rev 2” design made this change permanent, tweaked the GPIO pin-out, and added one much-requested feature: mounting holes.
Revision 1 versus revision 2
If you look carefully, you’ll notice something else about the revision 2 board: it’s made in the UK. 2012 marked the start of our relationship with the Sony UK Technology Centre in Pencoed, South Wales. In the five years since, they’ve built every product we offer, including more than 12 million “big” Raspberry Pis and more than one million Zeros.
Celebrating 500,000 Welsh units, back when that seemed like a lot
Economies of scale, and the decline in the price of SDRAM, allowed us to double the memory capacity of the Model B to 512MB in the autumn of 2012. And as supply of Model B finally caught up with demand, we were able to launch the Model A, delivering on our original promise of a $25 computer.
A UK-built Raspberry Pi Model A
In 2014, James took all the lessons we’d learned from two-and-a-bit years in the market, and designed the Model B+, and its baby brother the Model A+. The Model B+ established the form factor for all our future products, with a 40-pin extended GPIO connector, four USB ports, and four mounting holes.
The Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ — entering the era of proper product photography with a bang.
While James was working on the Model B+, Broadcom was busy behind the scenes developing a follow-on to the BCM2835 application processor. BCM2836 samples arrived in Cambridge at 18:00 one evening in April 2014 (chips never arrive at 09:00 — it’s always early evening, usually just before a public holiday), and within a few hours Dom had Raspbian, and the usual set of VideoCore multimedia demos, up and running.
We launched Raspberry Pi 2 at the start of 2015, pairing BCM2836 with 1GB of memory. With a quad-core Arm Cortex-A7 clocked at 900MHz, we’d increased performance sixfold, and memory fourfold, in just three years.
Nobody mention the xenon death flash.
And of course, while James was working on Raspberry Pi 2, Broadcom was developing BCM2837, with a quad-core 64-bit Arm Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.2GHz. Raspberry Pi 3 launched barely a year after Raspberry Pi 2, providing a further doubling of performance and, for the first time, wireless LAN and Bluetooth.
All our recent products are just the same board shot from different angles
Zero to hero
Where the PC industry has historically used Moore’s Law to “fill up” a given price point with more performance each year, the original Raspberry Pi used Moore’s law to deliver early-2000s PC performance at a lower price. But with Raspberry Pi 2 and 3, we’d gone back to filling up our original $35 price point. After the launch of Raspberry Pi 2, we started to wonder whether we could pull the same trick again, taking the original Raspberry Pi platform to a radically lower price point.
The result was Raspberry Pi Zero. Priced at just $5, with a 1GHz BCM2835 and 512MB of RAM, it was cheap enough to bundle on the front of The MagPi, making us the first computer magazine to give away a computer as a cover gift.
MagPi issue 40 in all its glory
We followed up with the $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W, launched exactly a year ago. This adds the wireless LAN and Bluetooth functionality from Raspberry Pi 3, using a rather improbable-looking PCB antenna designed by our buddies at Proant in Sweden.
RS Components limited-edition blue Raspberry Pi 1 Model B
Brazilian-market Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
Visible-light Camera Module v2
Learning about injection moulding the hard way
250 pages of content each month, every month
Forward the Foundation
Why does all this matter? Because we’re providing everyone, everywhere, with the chance to own a general-purpose programmable computer for the price of a cup of coffee; because we’re giving people access to tools to let them learn new skills, build businesses, and bring their ideas to life; and because when you buy a Raspberry Pi product, every penny of profit goes to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation in its mission to change the face of computing education.
We’ve had an amazing six years, and they’ve been amazing in large part because of the community that’s grown up alongside us. This weekend, more than 150 Raspberry Jams will take place around the world, comprising the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend.
If you want to know more about the Raspberry Pi community, go ahead and find your nearest Jam on our interactive map — maybe we’ll see you there.
Hey folks, Rob from The MagPi here! Issue 66 of The MagPi is out right now, with the ultimate guide to powering your home media with Raspberry Pi. We think the Pi is the perfect replacement or upgrade for many media devices, so in this issue we show you how to build a range of Raspberry Pi media projects.
Yes, it does say Pac-Man robotics on the cover. They’re very cool.
The article covers file servers for sharing media across your network, music streaming boxes that connect to Spotify, a home theatre PC to make your TV-watching more relaxing, a futuristic Pi-powered moving photoframe, and even an Alexa voice assistant to control all these devices!
More to see
That’s not all though — The MagPi 66 also shows you how to build a Raspberry Pi cluster computer, how to control LEGO robots using the GPIO, and why your Raspberry Pi isn’t affected by Spectre and Meltdown.
In addition, you’ll also find our usual selection of product reviews and excellent project showcases.
Get The MagPi 66
Issue 66 is available today 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. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android and iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.
Subscribe for free goodies
Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine, and get some cool free stuff? If you take out a twelve-month print subscription to The MagPi, you’ll get a Pi Zero W, Pi Zero case, and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.
With Raspberry Pi projects using home assistant services such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home becoming more and more popular, we invited Raspberry Pi maker Matt ‘Raspberry Pi Spy‘ Hawkins to write a guest post about his latest project, the Pi Spy Alexa Skill.
Pi Spy Skill
The Alexa system uses Skills to provide voice-activated functionality, and it allows you to create new Skills to add extra features. With the Pi Spy Skill, you can ask Alexa what function each pin on the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO header provides, for example by using the phrase “Alexa, ask Pi Spy what is Pin 2.” In response to a phrase such as “Alexa, ask Pi Spy where is GPIO 8”, Alexa can now also tell you on which pin you can find a specific GPIO reference number.
This information is already available in various forms, but I thought it would be useful to retrieve it when I was busy soldering or building circuits and had no hands free.
Creating an Alexa Skill
There is a learning curve to creating a new Skill, and in some regards it was similar to mobile app development.
A Skill consists of two parts: the first is created within the Amazon Developer Console and defines the structure of the voice commands Alexa should recognise. The second part is a webservice that can receive data extracted from the voice commands and provide a response back to the device. You can create the webservice on a webserver, internet-connected device, or cloud service.
I decided to use Amazon’s AWS Lambda service. Once set up, this allows you to write code without having to worry about the server it is running on. It also supports Python, so it fit in nicely with most of my other projects.
To get started, I logged into the Amazon Developer Console with my personal Amazon account and navigated to the Alexa section. I created a new Skill named Pi Spy. Within a Skill, you define an Intent Schema and some Sample Utterances. The schema defines individual intents, and the utterances define how these are invoked by the user.
Here is how my ExaminePin intent is defined in the schema:
Example utterances then attempt to capture the different phrases the user might speak to their device.
Whenever Alexa matches a spoken phrase to an utterance, it passes the name of the intent and the variable PinID to the webservice.
In the test section, you can check what JSON data will be generated and passed to your webservice in response to specific phrases. This allows you to verify that the webservices’ responses are correct.
Over on the AWS Services site, I created a Lambda function based on one of the provided examples to receive the incoming requests. Here is the section of that code which deals with the ExaminePin intent:
For this intent, I used a Python dictionary to match the incoming pin number to its description. Another Python function deals with the GPIO queries. A URL to this Lambda function was added to the Skill as its ‘endpoint’.
As with the Skill, the Python code can be tested to iron out any syntax errors or logic problems.
With suitable configuration, it would be possible to create the webservice on a Pi, and that is something I’m currently working on. This approach is particularly interesting, as the Pi can then be used to control local hardware devices such as cameras, lights, or pet feeders.
My Alexa Skill is currently only available to UK users. I’m hoping Amazon will choose to copy it to the US service, but I think that is down to its perceived popularity, or it may be done in bulk based on release date. In the next update, I’ll be adding an American English version to help speed up this process.
Andre Miron’s Pinewood Derby Instant Replay System (sorry, not sorry for the pun in the title) uses a Raspberry Pi to monitor the finishing line and play back a slow-motion instant replay, putting an end to “No, I won!” squabbles once and for all.
This is the same system I demo in this video (https://youtu.be/-QyMxKfBaAE), but on our actual track with real pinewood derby cars. Glad to report that it works great!
For those unfamiliar with the term, the Pinewood Derby is a racing event for Cub Scouts in the USA. Cub Scouts, often with the help of a guardian, build race cars out of wood according to rules regarding weight, size, materials, etc.
The Cubs then race their cars in heats, with the winners advancing to district and council races.
Andre’s Instant Replay System registers the race cars as they cross the finishing line, and it plays back slow-motion video of the crossing on a monitor. As he explains on YouTube:
The Pi is recording a constant stream of video, and when the replay is triggered, it records another half-second of video, then takes the last second and a half and saves it in slow motion (recording is done at 90 fps), before replaying.
The build also uses an attached Arduino, connected to GPIO pin 5, to trigger the recording and playback as it registers the passing cars via a voltage splitter. Additionally, the system announces the finishing places on a rather attractive-looking display above the finishing line.
The result? No more debate about whose car crossed the line first in neck-and-neck races.
Build your own
Andre takes us through the physical setup of the build in the video below, and you’ll find the complete code pasted in the description of the video here. Thanks, Andre!
See the system on our actual track here: https://youtu.be/B3lcQHWGq88 Raspberry Pi based instant replay system, triggered by Arduino Pinewood Derby Timer. The Pi uses GPIO pin 5 attached to a voltage splitter on Arduino output 11 (and ground-ground) to detect when a car crosses the finish line, which triggers the replay.
Digital making in your club
If you’re a member of an various after-school association such as the Scouts or Guides, then using the Raspberry Pi and our free project resources, or visiting a Code Club or CoderDojo, are excellent ways to work towards various badges and awards. So talk to your club leader to discover all the ways in which you can incorporate digital making into your club!
If you head over to the website of your favourite Raspberry Pi Approved Reseller today, you may find the new Zero WH available to purchase. But what it is? Why is it different, and what can you do with it?
“If you like pre-soldered headers, and getting caught in the rain…”
Raspberry Pi Zero WH
Imagine a Raspberry Pi Zero W. Now add a professionally soldered header. Boom, that’s the Raspberry Pi Zero WH! It’s your same great-tasting Pi, with a brand-new…crust? It’s perfect for everyone who doesn’t own a soldering iron or who wants the soldering legwork done for them.
What you can do with the Zero WH
What can’t you do? Am I right?! The small size of the Zero W makes it perfect for projects with minimal wiggle-room. In such projects, some people have no need for GPIO pins — they simply solder directly to the board. However, there are many instances where you do want a header on your Zero W, for example in order to easily take advantage of the GPIO expander tool for Debian Stretch on a PC or Mac.
[The GPIO expander tool] is a real game-changer for Raspberry Jams, Code Clubs, CoderDojos, and schools. You can live boot the Raspberry Pi Desktop OS from a USB stick, use Linux PCs, or even install [the Pi OS] on old computers. Then you have really simple access to physical computing without full Raspberry Pi setups, and with no SD cards to configure.
Using the GPIO expander with the Raspberry Pi Zero WH decreases the setup cost for anyone interested in trying out physical computing in the classroom or at home. (And once you’ve stuck your toes in, you’ll obviously fall in love and will soon find yourself with multiple Raspberry Pi models, HATs aplenty, and an area in your home dedicated to your new adventure in Raspberry Pi. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
Other uses for a Zero W with a header
The GPIO expander setup is just one of a multitude of uses for a Raspberry Pi Zero W with a header. You may want the header for prototyping before you commit to soldering wires directly to a board. Or you may have a temporary build in mind for your Zero W, in which case you won’t want to commit to soldering wires to the board at all.
Your use case may be something else entirely — tell us in the comments below how you’d utilise a pre-soldered Raspberry Pi Zero WH in your project. The best project idea will receive ten imaginary house points of absolutely no practical use, but immense emotional value. Decide amongst yourselves who you believe should win them — I’m going to go waste a few more hours playing SLUG!
Tired of pulling names out of a hat for office Secret Santa? Upgrade your festive tradition with a Raspberry Pi, thermal printer, and everybody’s favourite microcomputer mascot, Babbage Bear.
The name’s Santa. Secret Santa.
It’s that time of year again, when the cosiness gets turned up to 11 and everyone starts thinking about jolly fat men, reindeer, toys, and benevolent home invasion. At Raspberry Pi, we’re running a Secret Santa pool: everyone buys a gift for someone else in the office. Obviously, the person you buy for has to be picked in secret and at random, or the whole thing wouldn’t work. With that in mind, I created Secret Santa Babbage to do the somewhat mundane task of choosing gift recipients. This could’ve just been done with some names in a hat, but we’re Raspberry Pi! If we don’t make a Python-based Babbage robot wearing a jaunty hat and programmed to spread Christmas cheer, who will?
Ho ho ho!
Mecha-Babbage Xmas shenanigans
The script the robot runs is pretty basic: a list of names entered as comma-separated strings is shuffled at the press of a GPIO button, then a name is popped off the end and stored as a variable. The name is matched to a photo of the person stored on the Raspberry Pi, and a thermal printer pinched from Alex’s super awesome PastyCam (blog post forthcoming, maybe) prints out the picture and name of the person you will need to shower with gifts at the Christmas party. (Well, OK — with one gift. No more than five quid’s worth. Nothing untoward.) There’s also a redo function, just in case you pick yourself: press another button and the last picked name — still stored as a variable — is appended to the list again, which is shuffled once more, and a new name is popped off the end.
As the build was a bit of a rush job undertaken at the request of our ‘Director of Vibe’ Emily, there are a few things I’d like to improve about this functionality that I didn’t get around to — more on that later. To add some extra holiday spirit to the project at the last minute, I used Pygame to play a WAV file of Santa’s jolly laugh while Babbage chooses a name for you. The file is included in the GitHub repo along with everything else, because ‘tis the season, etc., etc.
Editor’s note: Considering these desk adornments, Mark’s Secret Santa gift-giver has a lot to go on.
Writing the code for Xmas Mecha-Babbage was fairly straightforward, though it uses some tricky bits for managing the thermal printer. You’ll need to install the drivers to make it go, as well as the CUPS package for managing the print hosting. You can find instructions for these things here, thanks to the wonderful Adafruit crew. Also, for reasons I couldn’t fathom, this will all only work on a Pi 2 and not a Pi 3, as there are some compatibility issues with the thermal printer otherwise. (I also tested the script on a Pi Zero W…no dice.)
Building a Christmassy throne
The hardest (well, fiddliest) parts of making the whole build were constructing the throne and wiring the bear. Using MakerCase, Inkscape, a bit of ingenuity, and a laser cutter, I was able to rig up a Christmassy plywood throne which has a hole through the seat so I could run the wires down from Babbage and to the Pi inside. I finished the throne by rubbing a couple of fingers of beeswax into it; as well as making the wood shine just a little bit and protecting it against getting wet, this had the added bonus of making it smell awesome.
Next year’s iteration will be mulled wine–scented.
I next soldered two LEDs to some lengths of wire, and then ran the wires through holes at the top of the throne and down the back along a small channel I had carved with a narrow chisel to connect them to the Pi’s GPIO pins. The green LED will remain on as long as Babbage is running his program, and the red one will light up while he is processing your request. Once the red LED goes off again, the next person can have a go. I also laser-cut a final piece of wood to overlay the back of Babbage’s Xmas throne and cover the wiring a bit.
Creating a Xmas cyborg bear
Taking two 6 mm tactile buttons, I clipped the spiky metal legs off one side of each (the buttons were going into a stuffed christmas toy, after all) and soldered a length of wire to each of the remaining legs. Next, I made a small incision into Babbage with my trusty Swiss army knife (in a place that actually made me cringe a little) and fed the buttons up into his paws. At some point in this process I was standing in the office wrestling with the bear and muttering to myself, which elicited some very strange looks from my colleagues.
One thing to note here is to make sure the wires remain attached at the solder points while you push them up into Babbage’s paws. The first time I tried it, I snapped one of my connections and had to start again. It helped to remove some stuffing like a tunnel and then replace it afterward. Moreover, you can use your fingertip to support the joints as you poke the wire in. Finally, a couple of squirts of hot glue to keep Babbage’s furry cheeks firmly on the seat, and done!
Next year: Game of Thrones–inspired candy cane throne
The Secret Santa Babbage masterpiece
The whole build process was the perfect holiday mix of cheerful and macabre, and while getting the thermal printer to work was a little time-consuming, the finished product definitely raised some smiles around the office and added a bit of interesting digital flavour to a staid office tradition. And it also helped people who are new to the office or from other branches of the Foundation to know for whom they will be buying a gift.
Ready to dispense Christmas cheer!
There are a few ways in which I’ll polish this project before next year, such as having the script write the names to external text files to create a record that will persist in case of a reboot, and maybe having Secret Santa Babbage play you a random Christmas carol when you squeeze his paw instead of just laughing merrily every time. (I also thought about adding electric shocks for those people who are on the naughty list, but HR said no. Bah, humbug!)
Make your own
The code and laser cut plans for the whole build are available here. If you plan to make your own, let us know which stuffed toy you will be turning into a Secret Santa cyborg! And if you’ve been working on any other Christmas-themed Raspberry Pi projects, we’d like to see those too, so tag us on social media to share the festive maker cheer.
Use the GPIO pins of a Raspberry Pi Zero while running Debian Stretch on a PC or Mac with our new GPIO expander software! With this tool, you can easily access a Pi Zero’s GPIO pins from your x86 laptop without using SSH, and you can also take advantage of your x86 computer’s processing power in your physical computing projects.
What is this magic?
Running our x86 Stretch distribution on a PC or Mac, whether installed on the hard drive or as a live image, is a great way of taking advantage of a well controlled and simple Linux distribution without the need for a Raspberry Pi.
The downside of not using a Pi, however, is that there aren’t any GPIO pins with which your Scratch or Python programs could communicate. This is a shame, because it means you are limited in your physical computing projects.
I was thinking about this while playing around with the Pi Zero’s USB booting capabilities, having seen people employ the Linux gadget USB mode to use the Pi Zero as an Ethernet device. It struck me that, using the udev subsystem, we could create a simple GUI application that automatically pops up when you plug a Pi Zero into your computer’s USB port. Then the Pi Zero could be programmed to turn into an Ethernet-connected computer running pigpio to provide you with remote GPIO pins.
So we went ahead and built this GPIO expander application, and your PC or Mac can now have GPIO pins which are accessible through Scratch or the GPIO Zero Python library. Note that you can only use this tool to access the Pi Zero.
You can also install the application on the Raspberry Pi. Theoretically, you could connect a number of Pi Zeros to a single Pi and (without a USB hub) use a maximum of 140 pins! But I’ve not tested this — one for you, I think…
Making the GPIO expander work
If you’re using a PC or Mac and you haven’t set up x86 Debian Stretch yet, you’ll need to do that first. An easy way to do it is to download a copy of the Stretch release from this page and image it onto a USB stick. Boot from the USB stick (on most computers, you just need to press F10 during booting and select the stick when asked), and then run Stretch directly from the USB key. You can also install it to the hard drive, but be aware that installing it will overwrite anything that was on your hard drive before.
Whether on a Mac, PC, or Pi, boot through to the Stretch desktop, open a terminal window, and install the GPIO expander application:
sudo apt install usbbootgui
Next, plug in your Raspberry Pi Zero (don’t insert an SD card), and after a few seconds the GUI will appear.
The Raspberry Pi USB programming GUI
Select GPIO expansion board and click OK. The Pi Zero will now be programmed as a locally connected Ethernet port (if you run ifconfig, you’ll see the new interface usb0 coming up).
What’s really cool about this is that your plugged-in Pi Zero is now running pigpio, which allows you to control its GPIOs through the network interface.
With Scratch 2
To utilise the pins with Scratch 2, just click on the start bar and select Programming > Scratch 2.
In Scratch, click on More Blocks, select Add an Extension, and then click Pi GPIO.
Two new blocks will be added: the first is used to set the output pin, the second is used to get the pin value (it is true if the pin is read high).
This a simple application using a Pibrella I had hanging around:
This is a Python example using the GPIO Zero library to flash an LED:
Note that in the code above the IP address of the Pi Zero is an IPv6 address and is shortened to fe80::1%usb0, where usb0 is the network interface created by the first Pi Zero.
With pigs directly
Another option you have is to use the pigpio library and the pigs application and redirect the output to the Pi Zero network port running IPv6. To do this, you’ll first need to set some environment variable for the redirection:
With the commands above, you should be able to flash the LED on the Pi Zero.
The secret sauce
I know there’ll be some people out there who would be interested in how we put this together. And I’m sure many people are interested in the ‘buildroot’ we created to run on the Pi Zero — after all, there are lots of things you can create if you’ve got a Pi Zero on the end of a piece of IPv6 string! For a closer look, find the build scripts for the GPIO expander here and the source code for the USB boot GUI here.
And be sure to share your projects built with the GPIO expander by tagging us on social media or posting links in the comments!
Today, we are launching the first Debian Stretch release of the Raspberry Pi Desktop for PCs and Macs, and we’re also releasing the latest version of Raspbian Stretch for your Pi.
For PCs and Macs
When we released our custom desktop environment on Debian for PCs and Macs last year, we were slightly taken aback by how popular it turned out to be. We really only created it as a result of one of those “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” conversations we sometimes have in the office, so we were delighted by the Pi community’s reaction.
Seeing how keen people were on the x86 version, we decided that we were going to try to keep releasing it alongside Raspbian, with the ultimate aim being to make simultaneous releases of both. This proved to be tricky, particularly with the move from the Jessie version of Debian to the Stretch version this year. However, we have now finished the job of porting all the custom code in Raspbian Stretch to Debian, and so the first Debian Stretch release of the Raspberry Pi Desktop for your PC or Mac is available from today.
The new Stretch releases
As with the Jessie release, you can either run this as a live image from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card or install it as the native operating system on the hard drive of an old laptop or desktop computer. Please note that installing this software will erase anything else on the hard drive — do not install this over a machine running Windows or macOS that you still need to use for its original purpose! It is, however, safe to boot a live image on such a machine, since your hard drive will not be touched by this.
We’re also pleased to announce that we are releasing the latest version of Raspbian Stretch for your Pi today. The Pi and PC versions are largely identical: as before, there are a few applications (such as Mathematica) which are exclusive to the Pi, but the user interface, desktop, and most applications will be exactly the same.
For Raspbian, this new release is mostly bug fixes and tweaks over the previous Stretch release, but there are one or two changes you might notice.
The file manager included as part of the LXDE desktop (on which our desktop is based) is a program called PCManFM, and it’s very feature-rich; there’s not much you can’t do in it. However, having used it for a few years, we felt that it was perhaps more complex than it needed to be — the sheer number of menu options and choices made some common operations more awkward than they needed to be. So to try to make file management easier, we have implemented a cut-down mode for the file manager.
Most of the changes are to do with the menus. We’ve removed a lot of options that most people are unlikely to change, and moved some other options into the Preferences screen rather than the menus. The two most common settings people tend to change — how icons are displayed and sorted — are now options on the toolbar and in a top-level menu rather than hidden away in submenus.
The sidebar now only shows a single hierarchical view of the file system, and we’ve tidied the toolbar and updated the icons to make them match our house style. We’ve removed the option for a tabbed interface, and we’ve stomped a few bugs as well.
One final change was to make it possible to rename a file just by clicking on its icon to highlight it, and then clicking on its name. This is the way renaming works on both Windows and macOS, and it’s always seemed slightly awkward that Unix desktop environments tend not to support it.
As with most of the other changes we’ve made to the desktop over the last few years, the intention is to make it simpler to use, and to ease the transition from non-Unix environments. But if you really don’t like what we’ve done and long for the old file manager, just untick the box for Display simplified user interface and menus in the Layout page of Preferences, and everything will be back the way it was!
Battery indicator for laptops
One important feature missing from the previous release was an indication of the amount of battery life. Eben runs our desktop on his Mac, and he was becoming slightly irritated by having to keep rebooting into macOS just to check whether his battery was about to die — so fixing this was a priority!
We’ve added a battery status icon to the taskbar; this shows current percentage charge, along with whether the battery is charging, discharging, or connected to the mains. When you hover over the icon with the mouse pointer, a tooltip with more details appears, including the time remaining if the battery can provide this information.
While this battery monitor is mainly intended for the PC version, it also supports the first-generation pi-top — to see it, you’ll only need to make sure that I2C is enabled in Configuration. A future release will support the new second-generation pi-top.
New PC applications
We have included a couple of new applications in the PC version. One is called PiServer — this allows you to set up an operating system, such as Raspbian, on the PC which can then be shared by a number of Pi clients networked to it. It is intended to make it easy for classrooms to have multiple Pis all running exactly the same software, and for the teacher to have control over how the software is installed and used. PiServer is quite a clever piece of software, and it’ll be covered in more detail in another blog post in December.
We’ve also added an application which allows you to easily use the GPIO pins of a Pi Zero connected via USB to a PC in applications using Scratch or Python. This makes it possible to run the same physical computing projects on the PC as you do on a Pi! Again, we’ll tell you more in a separate blog post this month.
Both of these applications are included as standard on the PC image, but not on the Raspbian image. You can run them on a Pi if you want — both can be installed from apt.
How to get the new versions
New images for both Raspbian and Debian versions are available from the Downloads page.
It is possible to update existing installations of both Raspbian and Debian versions. For Raspbian, this is easy: just open a terminal window and enter
How to update to the latest version of Raspbian on your Raspberry Pi. Download Raspbian here: More information on the latest version of Raspbian: Buy a Raspberry Pi:
It is slightly more complex for the PC version, as the previous release was based around Debian Jessie. You will need to edit the files /etc/apt/sources.list and /etc/apt/sources.list.d/raspi.list, using sudo to do so. In both files, change every occurrence of the word “jessie” to “stretch”. When that’s done, do the following:
At several points during the upgrade process, you will be asked if you want to keep the current version of a configuration file or to install the package maintainer’s version. In every case, keep the existing version, which is the default option. The update may take an hour or so, depending on your network connection.
As with all software updates, there is the possibility that something may go wrong during the process, which could lead to your operating system becoming corrupted. Therefore, we always recommend making a backup first.
Enjoy the new versions, and do let us know any feedback you have in the comments or on the forums!
Here at Raspberry Pi, we know that getting physical with computing is often a catalyst for creativity. Building a simple circuit can open up a world of making possibilities! This ethos of tinkering and invention is also being used in the classroom to inspire a whole new generation of makers too, and here is why.
The all-important question
Physical computing provides a great opportunity for creative expression: the button press! By explaining how a button works, how to build one with a breadboard attached to computer, and how to program the button to work when it’s pressed, you can give learners young and old all the conceptual skills they need to build a thing that does something. But what do they want their button to do? Have you ever asked your students or children at home? I promise it will be one of the most mindblowing experiences you’ll have if you do.
Looks harmless now, but put it into the hands of a child and see what happens!
Amy will want her button to take a photo, Charlie will want his button to play a sound, Tumi will want her button to explode TNT in Minecraft, Jack will want their button to fire confetti out of a cannon, and James Robinson will want his to trigger silly noises (doesn’t he always?)! Idea generation is the inherent gift that every child has in abundance. As educators and parents, we’re always looking to deeply engage our young people in the subject matter we’re teaching, and they are never more engaged than when they have an idea and want to implement it. Way back in 2012, I wanted my button to print geeky sayings:
A sneak peek at the finished Geek Gurl Diaries ‘Box of Geek’. I’ve been busy making this for a few weeks with some help from friends. Tutorial to make your own box coming soon, so keep checking the Geek Gurl Diaries Twitter, facebook page and channel.
What are the challenges for this approach in education?
Allowing this kind of free-form creativity and tinkering in the classroom obviously has its challenges for teachers, especially those confined to rigid lesson structures, timings, and small classrooms. The most common worry I hear from teachers is “what if they ask a question I can’t answer?” Encouraging this sort of creative thinking makes that almost an inevitability. How can you facilitate roughly 30 different projects simultaneously? The answer is by using those other computational and transferable thinking skills:
Clearly specifying a problem, surveying the tools available to solve it (including online references and external advice), and then applying them to solve the problem is a hugely important skill, and this is a great opportunity to teach it.
Press ALL the buttons!
When we train teachers at Picademy, we group attendees around themes that have come out of the idea generation session. Together they collaborate on an achievable shared goal. One will often sketch something on a whiteboard, decomposing the problem into smaller parts; then the group will divide up the tasks. Each will look online or in books for tutorials to help them with their step. I’ve seen this behaviour in student groups too, and it’s very easy to facilitate. You don’t need to be the resident expert on every project that students want to work on.
The key is knowing where to guide students to find the answers they need. Curating online videos, blogs, tutorials, and articles in advance gives you the freedom and confidence to concentrate on what matters: the learning. We have a number of physical computing projects that use buttons, linked to our curriculum for learners to combine inputs and outputs to solve a problem. The WhooPi cushion and GPIO music box are two of my favourites.
The rise of the global maker movement, I think, is in response to abstract concepts and disciplines. Children are taught lots of concepts in isolation that aren’t always relevant to their lives or immediate environment. Digital making provides a unique and exciting way of bridging different subject areas, allowing for cross-curricular participation. I’m not suggesting that educators should throw away all their schemes of work and leave the full direction of the computing curriculum to students. However, there’s huge value in exposing learners to the possibilities for creativity in computing. Creative freedom and expression guide learning, better preparing young people for the workplace of tomorrow.
We created Pip so that anyone can tinker with technology. From beginners to those who know more — Pip makes it easy, simple, and fun!
Pip’s smart design may well remind you of a certain handheld gaming console released earlier this year. With its central screen and detachable side controllers, Pip has a size and shape ideal for gaming.
Those who have used a Raspberry Pi with the Raspbian OS might be familiar with Minecraft Pi, a variant of the popular Minecraft game created specifically for Pi users to play and hack for free. Users of Pip will be able to access Minecraft Pi from the portable device and take their block-shaped creations with them wherever they go.
And if that’s not enough, Pip’s Pi brain allows coders to create their own games using Scratch, in addition to giving access a growing library of games in Curious Chip’s online arcade.
Pip’s GPIO pins are easily accessible, so that you can expand upon your digital making skills with physical computing projects. Grab your Pip and a handful of jumper leads, and you will be able to connect and control components such as lights, buttons, servomotors, and more!
Maker Pack and add-ons
Backers can also pledge their funds for additional hardware, such as the Maker Pack, an integrated camera, or a Pip Breadboard Kit.
The breadboard and the optional PipHAT are also compatible with any Raspberry Pi 2 and 3. Nice!
Curiosity from Curious Chip
Users of Pip can program their device via Curiosity, a tool designed specifically for this handheld device.
Back the project
If you’d like to back Curious Chip and bag your own Pip, you can check out their Kickstarter page here. And if you watch their promo video closely, you may see a familiar face from the Raspberry Pi community.
Are you planning on starting your own Raspberry Pi-inspired crowd-funded campaign? Then be sure to tag us on social media. We love to see what the community is creating for our little green (or sometimes blue) computer.
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