Tag Archives: HackSpace magazine

Build a xylophone-playing robot | HackSpace magazine #22

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/build-a-xylophone-playing-robot-hackspace-magazine-22/

HackSpace magazine issue 22 is out now, and our favourite tutorial this month will show you how to make this, a xylophone-playing robot!

Build a glockenspiel-playing robot with HackSpace magazine

Why spend years learning to play a musical instrument when you could program a robot to do it for you? This month HackSpace magazine, we show you how to build a glockenspiel-playing robot. Download the latest issue of HackSpace for free: http://rpf.io/hs22yt Follow HackSpace on Instagram: http://rpf.io/hsinstayt

If programming your own instrument-playing robot isn’t for you, never fear, for HackSpace magazine is packed full of other wonderful makes and ideas, such as:

  • A speaker built into an old wine barrel
  • Free-form LEDs
  • Binary knitwear
  • A Raspberry Pi–powered time machine
  • Mushroom lights
  • A…wait, hold on, did I just say a Raspberry Pi–powered time machine? Hold on…let me just download the FREE PDF and have a closer look. Page 14, a WW2 radio broadcast time machine built by Adam Clark. “I bought a very old, non-working valve radio, and replaced the internals with a Raspberry Pi Zero on a custom 3D-printed chassis.” NICE!


Honestly, this month’s HackSpace is so full of content that it would take me all day to go through everything. But, don’t take my word for it — try it yourself.

HackSpace magazine is out now, available in print from your local newsagent or from the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge, online from Raspberry Pi Press, or as a free PDF download. Click here to find out more and, while you’re at it, why not have a look at the subscription offers available, including the 12-month deal that comes with a free Adafruit Circuit Playground!

Author’s note

Yes, I know it’s a glockenspiel in the video.

The post Build a xylophone-playing robot | HackSpace magazine #22 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Liverpool MakeFest | HackSpace magazine #19

Post Syndicated from Ben Everard original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/liverpool-makefest-hackspace-magazine-19/

The news that UK Maker Faire was to shut its doors came as a bit of a surprise to many. This vibrant weekend of makers meeting, sharing, and learning was absolutely brilliant, and left us fizzing with ideas after our visits there. We’re sad that it’s gone.

Makers being makers though, if there’s demand, it will be filled. And that’s exactly what’s happening in Liverpool with Liverpool MakeFest. On 29 June 2019, the MakeFest will hold its fifth iteration. This is the UK’s biggest free maker event, attracting thousands of visitors, and its vision of a free, maker-focused festival is spreading far and wide.

We visited the mid-Victorian splendour of Liverpool Central Library, the home of MakeFest, to talk to the founders — Denise Jones, Mark Feltham, and Caroline Keep — to find out what makes this event special.

Liverpool MakeFest 2019 is taking place at the Central Library, Saturday 29 June 2019, and it’s completely free to attend

HackSpace magazine: Hello! Thanks for having us over here. How did the three of you come together to start Liverpool MakeFest?

Caroline Keep: I was a geotechnical engineer, Mark’s an academic, and Denise is a librarian. We bumped into each other watching a workshop in lantern making. Mark had all the academic experience. When I came to work with Mark on his makerspace, I was the geeky maker — he didn’t even have a smartphone at that time. I got the education bug and then moved into secondary school teaching.

Mark Feltham: It all started over there, as a chance meeting. We bumped into each other and got chatting. Within six weeks, we’d filled the library. We thought it would be a one-off, but since then it’s taken off.

Caroline is the reigning TES New Teacher Of The Year

HS: So no business plan, no franchising fees, no world domination?

CK: We’ve just winged it. We made all the banners, bunting. The first year my PGCE fund paid for MakeFest! This building reopened again in 2013, and in 2014 we were lucky that they were running a programme of events and initiatives to make it a really vibrant building, so it was the right time as well. We thought we’d have a little room off to the side and get maybe six tables. We’d already done a Mini Maker Faire, and we’ve always been good friends with [local makerspace] DoES Liverpool, so we were confident we’d get at least a few people turning up. And in six weeks we were full.

MF: We pulled the first one off, we’re talking the first three floors of the library and 60 makers, for £850. And that included feeding them and making badges as well.

One of the spin-offs that have come out of MakeFest is Little Sandboxes, which takes making out to deprived areas of the city

HS: For context, this building is huge. It’s bigger than most libraries; it’s probably about the same size as the Life Centre in Newcastle, where UK Maker Faire was held until recently. It must have helped to have a librarian on board to negotiate with the powers that be?

Denise Jones: I had to sell it to the people in charge back then, which were the head of service and the manager of this building. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has a Taskforce for Libraries, which is funded until next year. We’re close to finishing the national guidance now for the Taskforce — the idea is to get one of these [MakeFests] in every library. We wanted the guidance doc to be inclusive of museums and libraries, because we knew that Manchester had opted to put their MakeFest in a museum. We’ve got Chester and Stoke MakeFest, and there’s one in the pipeline in Wrexham. We were having the same conversations over and over again, so we decided to write a document: how to run a MakeFest.

Liverpool Central Library was renovated a few years ago — the precious books went into temporary storage in a salt mine in Cheshire to keep them dry

HS: What have we got to look forward to this year and beyond?

CK: That’s a good question. We’ve got some corking stuff coming this year. We’ve given it the theme ’Space and time – creativity in the making’. We’ve got events planned for the Apollo anniversary, and [just] before MakeFest we’re going to kick off with a music day, showing people how to make music, and making the instruments to make music. That’s another spin-off that’s come out of MakeFest: the MakerNoise Unconference at Edge Hill University.

MF: We’ve always felt that we hold MakeFest in trust for makers. In terms of where it goes long-term, I don’t see it ever becoming more than a one-day event here, because one day is good. It gives people Sunday to get over things, and get home because they have day jobs on a Monday. We’re always very sensitive to that, we don’t want to take up too much of people’s time. The other thing is that I don’t see it spilling out into a bigger building; it’s always going to be in the library. But the way to grow it is to put it in other libraries. Not to make this one, Liverpool, bigger and take over. Then each maker community gets its own feel, and its own vibe — Stoke MakeFest has a very different feel to ours, because their maker scene is different to ours, and their city is different to ours.

The other way to expand it is that, rather than by just expanding to other cities, you can have more events on throughout the year. Rather than being solely a one-day event, you can have all these spin-offs, so once a month there’s something going on. Rather than it just being about tech and digital, we’ve always liked to have some sort of fantasy element. Things like Doctor Who, Star Wars, Darth Vader, K-9 — the kids love that. We have a lot of friends who are into steampunk; they get roped in to do front-of-house duties. You know what the funny thing was at the first one? Not only did the public enjoy it, but also the makers. It’s kind of like a musician playing an acoustic set. We’ve got a get-together on the Thursday before, we’ve got a Friday night party going, we always do an after-party. The public come on the Saturday, but there’s always stuff going on that week for makers.

In addition to always wanting it to be free for the public, and for the makers to not have to pay for their stand, we feel very strongly that we should give something back. We always give them lunch, we always give them a badge, and there’s always a party. We can’t pay them, but it’s our way of showing our appreciation to the makers who come and make it what it is. The celebration and sharing are big parts of the maker ethos.

People like to show [their projects] not to show off, not to say ‘Look at how clever I am’ — it’s more to say ‘Look at this awesome thing, isn’t this cool?’ Trying to explain that to people can be tricky. You can make this: here’s how you do it. That’s the ethos.

CK: I always feel with MakeFest — you said it’s like an acoustic gig. I always envisioned it as Liverpool’s party for makers. It’s our little get-together, and that’s how I like it.

Read the full interview in HackSpace magazine issue 19, out now! This month we’re looking at building a walking robot, laser cutting LED jewellery, the 55 timer chip, and much more. Download the issue for free, or buy it in print on our website.

Get HackSpace magazine issue 19 from all good newsagents

Special subscription offer

To have 132 pages of making delivered to your doorstep every month, subscribe to HackSpace magazine from just £5 for your first three issues.

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The future of 3D printing with Dr Adrian Bowyer | HackSpace magazine #17

Post Syndicated from Ben Everard original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/future-3d-printing-adrian-bowyer-hackspace-17/

You might have heard of RepRap. It’s the project that began at the University of Bath in 2005 with the aim of creating a self-replicating, open-source 3D printer. As is the nature of open source, many other projects have spun off from RepRap, including the Prusa i3. Without RepRap, the field of 3D printing would be much smaller, less advanced, and a lot less open.

Adrian was made an MBE in the New Year Honours list, for services to 3D printing.

We drove many miles through wind and rain to meet Dr Adrian Bowyer, co-founder of the RepRap project who now, along with his daughter Sally, runs RepRap Ltd. The two of them are still pushing boundaries, raising standards, and lowering prices, so we sat down to talk about RepRap and where the 3D printing industry is heading.

It may be an obvious question, but why did you start the RepRap project?

Adrian Bowyer: Curiosity. I have always been interested in the idea of self-replicating machines ever since I was a child. When my university acquired some commercial 3D printers, as soon as they arrived I thought, ah, we’ve got a technology here that is sufficiently versatile that it stands a chance of being able to copy itself. Having had that idea, the very next question that occurs to your brain is: will this work? And that was the genesis of the project. I wanted to find out if we could make a machine that could print a significant fraction of its own parts and self-replicate.

It was literally the case that, at the height of development of RepRap in Bath 2008/2009, I was effectively running, in terms of numbers of staff, the biggest research project in any UK university. I wasn’t paying any of them of course, and they were distributed all over the world, but if you counted them up, there were more of them working with me than were working in any other single research project in any other university in the UK.

What are you doing with RepRap at the moment?

AB: We’re looking at distributed processor RepRaps, so instead of having a single CPU, we put a single CPU on each device in the machine, such as the heaters, the motors, and so on. This isn’t a new idea; other people have tried this in the past. From the perspective of Raspberry Pi, that’s interesting because such a machine wouldn’t need real-time response from the processor that’s at the heart of the machine.

If you’ve got a Linux system running on something, it’s not great for real-time control, because of interrupts. Whereas the sort of system we’re working on would have a Raspberry Pi in the middle, with a load of Arduinos around it. You can hand over the hardware timing to the Arduino, which, being dedicated, can be guaranteed to generate a poll every 20 microseconds or whatever it is. Whereas the thing sitting in the middle, doing the control, just has to be able to respond every few milliseconds. That’s something we’re putting together with Raspberry Pis and Arduinos.

Each Arduino is monitoring and controlling one aspect of the printer

One of the reasons that we want to do it is that we’re looking at making larger machines, and also a machine that not only is a 3D printer, but also incorporates a plasma cutter. Now, the thing about a plasma cutter is that it generates an enormous amount of electronic noise. You get lots of interference from it. So the ideal way to send electrical signals around the machine is not using electricity, but optics. So what we would be doing would be setting up a machine with optical communication between each of its component parts and the controller, so that electrical interference isn’t a problem, and, in order to do that [the system] has to be distributed in the way that I’ve just described.

Where, in general, do you think 3D printing is heading?

AB: The analogy I often draw is with washing clothes, which went through three stages: it started off with us washing our own clothes. In the scullery or the kitchen, you’d wash your clothes once a week. And then in Victorian times, as economies of scale kicked in, there would be a town laundry, where you would send your clothes and they’d come back clean. But now we have a robot in the kitchen that can wash our clothes. It’s come back to us, this time automated.

Making stuff in general, it seems to me, is going through that progression, just 100 years later. It started off that, if you needed a gate hinge, you went to the blacksmith in your village. He would make you a gate hinge. Now if you want a gate hinge, you go to the shop and buy one, and it was made halfway around the world. But if we bring some of that back into our cities, it’s like bringing our washing back from the town laundry into our homes. As long as it’s automated: the rule seems to be that if something is automatable so that people don’t have to pay a lot of attention, and it’s low-cost enough, people can take it back to themselves, and economies of scale get reversed.

This ukulele was printed in two parts. It’s playable, and sounds great.

Finally, congratulations on your MBE!

AB: That’s very kind! The certificate is an impressive thing. Signed by Her Majesty the Queen, and by Prince Philip as the person who is in charge of knighthoods and such.

I’m going up in May to Buckingham Palace to have it pinned on my chest, so that’ll be interesting. The commendation says: “Inventor: for services to 3D printing.” Short and to the point.

Read more

The full interview is in HackSpace magazine issue 17, where we also help you develop your Arduino skill, look at an open-source lathe, design a PCB in KiCad, build a polyphonic synthesizer, and much more.

Buy your copy now from the Raspberry Pi Press store, major newsagents in the UK, or Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center in the US. Or, download your free PDF copy from the HackSpace magazine website.

Never miss an issue

Subscribe today and get three issues for just £5 (in the UK — additional postage charges apply elsewhere)!

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Make art with LEDs | HackSpace magazine #16

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/make-art-with-leds-hackspace-16/

Create something beautiful with silicon, electricity, your endless imagination, and HackSpace magazine issue 16 — out today!

HackSpace magazine 16

LEDs are awesome

Basically, LEDs are components that convert electrical power into light. Connect them to a power source (with some form of current limiter) in the right orientation, and they’ll glow.

Each LED has a single colour. Fortunately, manufacturers can pack three LEDs (red, green, and blue) into a single component, and varying the power to each LED-within-an-LED produces a wide range of hues. However, by itself, this type of colourful LED is a little tricky to control: each requires three inputs, so a simple 10×10 matrix would require 300 inputs. But there’s a particular trick electronics manufacturers have that make RGB LEDs easy to use: making the LEDs addressable!

An RGB LED

Look: you can clearly see the red, green, and blue elements of this RGB LED

Addressable LEDs

Addressable LEDs have microcontrollers built into them. These aren’t powerful, programmable microcontrollers, they’re just able to handle a simple communications protocol. There are quite a few different types of addressable LEDs, but two are most popular with makers: WS2812 (often called NeoPixels) and APA102 (often called DotStars). Both are widely available from maker stores and direct-from-China websites. NeoPixels use a single data line, while DotStars use a signal and a clock line. Both, however, are chainable. This means that you connect one (for NeoPixels) or two (for DotStars) pins of your microcontroller to the Data In connectors on the first LED, then the output of this LED to the input of the next, and so on.

Exactly how many LEDs you can chain together depends on a few different things, including the power of the microcontroller and the intended refresh rate. Often, though, the limiting factor for most hobbyists is the amount of electricity you need.

Which type to use

The big difference between NeoPixels and DotStars comes down to the speed of them. LEDs are made dimmer by turning them off and on very quickly. The proportion of the time they’re off, the dimmer they are. This is known as pulse-width modulation (PWM). The speed at which this blinking on and off can have implications for some makes, such as when the LEDs are moving quickly.

NeoPixels

  • Cheap
  • Slowish refresh rate
  • Slowish PWM rate

DotStars

  • More expensive
  • Faster refresh rate
  • Fast PWM rate
NeoPixels moving in the dark

As a NeoPixel is moved through a long-exposure photograph, you can see it blink on and off. DotStars – which have a faster PWM rate – avoid this.

Safety first!

HackSpace magazine’s LED feature is just a whistle-stop guide to the basics of powering LEDs — it’s not a comprehensive guide to all things power-related. Once you go above a few amperes, you need to think about what you’re doing with power. Once you start to approach double figures, you need to make sure you know what you’re doing and, if you find yourself shopping for an industrial power supply, then you really need to make sure you know how to use it safely.

Read more

Read the rest of the exclusive 14-page LED special in HackSpace magazine issue 16, out today. Buy your copy now from the Raspberry Pi Press store, major newsagents in the UK, or Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center in the US. Or, download your free PDF copy from the HackSpace magazine website.

HackSpace magazine 16 Front Cover

We’re also shipping to stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil, so be sure to ask your local newsagent whether they’ll be getting HackSpace magazine.

Subscribe now

Subscribe to HackSpace on a monthly, quarterly, or twelve-month basis to save money against newsstand prices.

Twelve-month print subscribers get a free Adafruit Circuit Playground Express, loaded with inputs and sensors and ready for your next project. Tempted?

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From HackSpace mag issue 14: DIY Geiger counters

Post Syndicated from Andrew Gregory original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/from-hackspace-mag-issue-14-diy-geiger-counters/

In HackSpace magazine issue 14, out today, Cameron Norris writes about how citizen scientists at Tokyo Hackerspace took on the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Safecast is an independent citizen science project that emerged in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster to provide accurate, unbiased, and credible data on radiation exposure in Japan.

On 11 March 2011, an undersea earthquake off the Pacific coast of Thoku, Japan, caused the second-worst nuclear accident in the history of nuclear power generation, releasing almost 30% more radiation than the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

The magnitude 9.0–9.1 earthquake resulted in a series of devastating tsunami waves that damaged the backup generator of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Without functioning cooling systems, the temperature of the plant’s many nuclear reactors steadily began to rise, eventually leading to a partial meltdown and several hydrogen gas explosions, launching nuclear fallout into the air and sea. Due to concerns over possible radiation exposure, the Japanese government established an 18-mile no-fly zone around the Fukushima plant, and approximately 232 square miles of land was evacuated.

However, citizens of Fukushima Prefecture living outside of the exclusion zone were faced with a serious problem: radiation exposure data wasn’t available to the public until almost two months after the meltdown occurred. Many residents felt they had been left to guess if dangerous levels of ionising radiation had contaminated their communities or not.

Alarmed by the situation, Dutch electrical engineer and computer scientist Pieter Franken, who was living in Tokyo with his family at the time, felt compelled to act. “After the massive wall of water, we had this invisible wall of radiation that was between myself and my family-in-law in the north of Japan, so that kind of triggered the start of Safecast,” says Pieter.

Pieter Franken, a Dutchman living in Japan, who helped start Safecast
Image credit: Joi Ito – CC BY 2.0

Pieter picked up an idea from Ray Ozzie, the former CTO of Microsoft, who suggested quickly gathering data by attaching Geiger counters – used for measuring radioactivity – to the outside of cars before driving around Fukushima. The only problem was that Geiger counters sold out almost globally in a matter of hours after the tsunami hit, making it even more difficult for Pieter and others on the ground to figure out exactly what was going on. The discussion between Pieter and his friends quickly changed from buying devices to instead building and distributing them to the people of Fukushima.

At Tokyo Hackerspace, Pieter – along with several others, including Joi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab, and Sean Bonner, an activist and journalist from Los Angeles – built a series of open-source tools for radiation mapping, to enable anyone to build their own pocket Geiger counter and easily share the data they collect. “Six days after having the idea, we had a working system. The next day we were off to Fukushima,” recalls Sean.

A bGeigie Nano removed from its Pelican hardshell
Safecast CC-BY-NC 4.0

A successful Kickstarter campaign raised $36,900 to provide the funding necessary to distribute hundreds of Geiger counters to the people of Japan, while training volunteers on how to use them. Today, Safecast has collected over 100 million data points and is home to the largest open dataset about environmental radiation in the world. All of the data is collected via the Safecast API and published free of charge in the public domain to an interactive map developed by Safecast and MIT Media Lab.

You can read the rest of this feature in HackSpace magazine issue 14, out today in Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy HackSpace mag directly from us — worldwide delivery is available. And if you’d like to own a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download a free PDF.

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Brand-new books from The MagPi and HackSpace magazine

Post Syndicated from Rob Zwetsloot original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/book-of-making-1-magpi-projects-book-4/

Hey folks, Rob from The MagPi here! Halloween is over and November has just begun, which means CHRISTMAS IS ALMOST HERE! It’s never too early to think about Christmas — I start in September, the moment mince pies hit shelves.

Elf GIF

What most people seem to dread about Christmas is finding the right gifts, so I’m here to help you out. We’ve just released two new books: our Official Raspberry Pi Projects Book volume 4, and the brand-new Book of Making volume 1 from the team at HackSpace magazine!

Book of Making volume 1

HackSpace magazine book 1 - Raspberry Pi

Spoiler alert: it’s a book full of making

The Book of Making volume 1 contains 50 of the very best projects from HackSpace magazine, including awesome project showcases and amazing guides for building your own incredible creations. Expect to encounter trebuchets, custom drones, a homemade tandoori oven, and much more! And yes, there are some choice Raspberry Pi projects as well.

The Official Raspberry Pi Projects Book volume 4

The MagPi Raspberry pi Projects book 4

More projects, more guides, and more reviews!

Volume 4 of the Official Raspberry Pi Projects Book is once again jam-packed with Raspberry Pi goodness in its 200 pages, with projects, build guides, reviews, and a little refresher for beginners to the world of Raspberry Pi. Whether you’re new to Pi or have every single model, there’s something in there for you, no matter your skill level.

Free shipping? Worldwide??

You can buy the Book of Making and the Official Raspberry Pi Projects Book volume 4 right now from the Raspberry Pi Press Store, and here’s the best part: they both have free worldwide shipping! They also roll up pretty neatly, in case you want to slot them into someone’s Christmas stocking. And you can also find them at our usual newsagents.

Both books are available as free PDF downloads, so you can try before you buy. When you purchase any of our publications, you contribute toward the hard work of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, so why not double your giving this holiday season by helping us put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world?

Anyway, that’s it for now — I’m off for more mince pies!

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HackSpace magazine issue 11: best maker hardware

Post Syndicated from Andrew Gregory original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/hackspace-magazine-11-best-maker-hardware/

Today is that glorious day of the month when a new issue of HackSpace magazine comes out!

HackSpace magazine #11: All you can hardware

The cream of this year’s hardware crop

You’re on safe and solid ground with an Arduino, or one of Adafruit’s boards — so much so that many makers get comfortable and never again look at the other options that are out there. With the help of Hackster’s chief hardware nerd Alex Glow, we’re here to open your eyes to the new devices and boards that could really kick your making into gear. We know it’s easy to stick with what you know, but trust us — hacker tech is getting better all the time. So try something new!

Hackspace magazine hardware feature spread

One man and his shed shack

If you want to learn stuff like how to build a workbench that includes a voice-activated beer dispenser, then check out Al’s Hack Shack on Youtube.

Al's Hack Shack

We went to see the man inside the shack to learn about the maker community’s love of sharing, why being grown-up means you get more time to play, and why making is good for your mental health.

Hacky Racers

Maker culture shows itself in all sorts of quirky forms. The one we’re portraying in issue 11 is the Hacky Racers: motorsport meets Robot Wars meets mud. Lots of mud. If you feel the need, the need for speed (or mud), then get involved!

Hacky Racers

Laser harp

Yes, you read that right! At HackSpace magazine, we get a lot of gear coming in for us to test, but few items have given us more joy than this laser harp.

It’s easy to build, it’s affordable, and it poses only a very small risk of burning out your retinas. It’s the most fun you can have for £8.59 including postage. Promise. Read our full review in this month’s issue!

And there’s more!

We demystify PAT testing, help you make sense of circuit design with a beginners’ guide to Tinkercad, tell you why you need an angle grinder, and show you the easiest way we’ve ever seen of keeping knives sharp. All this and more, in your latest issue of HackSpace magazine!

Get your copy of HackSpace magazine

If you like the sound of this month’s content, you can find HackSpace magazine in WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and independent newsagents in the UK. If you live in the US, check out your local Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center next week. We’re also shipping to stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil, so be sure to ask your local newsagent whether they’ll be getting HackSpace magazine. And if you’d rather try before you buy, you can always download the free PDF.

Subscribe now

Subscribe now” may not be subtle as a marketing message, but we really think you should. You’ll get the magazine early, plus a lovely physical paper copy, which has really good battery life.

Oh, and twelve-month print subscribers get an Adafruit Circuit Playground Express loaded with inputs and sensors and ready for your next project. Tempted?

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Build a social media follower counter

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/build-social-media-follower-counter/

In this tutorial from HackSpace magazine issue 9, Paul Freeman-Powell shows you how to keep track of your social media followers, and encourage subscribers, by building a live follower counter. Get your copy of HackSpace magazine in stores now, or download it as a free PDF here.

Issues 10 of HackSpace magazine is available online and in stores from tomorrow!

The finished build with all components connected, working, and installed in the frame ready for hanging on the wall

If you run a local business like an electronics shop or a café, or if you just want to grow your online following and influence, this project is a fun way to help you keep track of your progress. A counter could also help contribute to growing your following if you hang it on the wall and actively ask your customers to like/follow you to see the numbers go up!

You’ve probably seen those social media follower counters that feature mechanical splitflap displays. In this project we’ll build a counter powered by RGB LEDs that scrolls through four social profiles, using APIs to pull the number of followers for each account. I’m using YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; you can, of course, tailor the project to your needs.

This project involves a bit of electronics, a bit of software coding, and a bit of woodwork, as well as some fairly advanced display work as we transfer a small portion of the Raspberry Pi’s HDMI output onto the LED matrices.

Let’s get social

First, you need to get your Raspberry Pi all set up and talking to the social networks that you’re going to display. Usually, it’s advisable to install Raspbian without any graphical user interface (GUI) for most electronics projects, but in this case you’ll be actively using that GUI, so make sure you start with a fresh and up-to-date installation of full-fat Raspbian.

phpMyAdmin gives you an easy web interface to allow you to access and edit the device’s settings – for example, speed and direction of scrolling, API credentials, and the social network accounts to monitor

You start by turning your humble little Raspberry Pi into your very own mini web server, which will gather your credentials, talk to the social networks, and display the follower counts. To do this, you need to install a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack. Start by installing the Apache web server by opening a Terminal and typing:

sudo apt-get install apache2 -y

Then, open the web browser on your Pi and type http://localhost — you will see a default page telling you that Apache is working. The page on our little ‘website’ will use code written in the PHP language, so install that by returning to your Terminal and typing:

sudo apt-get install php -y

Once that’s complete, restart Apache:

sudo service apache2 restart

Next, you’ll install the database to store your credentials, settings, and the handles of the social accounts to track. This is done with the following command in your Terminal:

sudo apt-get install mysql-server php-mysql -y

To set a root password for your database, type the following command and follow the on-screen instructions:

sudo mysql_secure_installation

Restart Apache again. Then, for easier management of the database, I recommend installing phpMyAdmin:

sudo apt-get install phpMyAdmin -y

At this point, it’s a good idea to connect your Pi to a WiFi network, unless you’re going to be running a network cable to it. Either way, it’s useful to have SSH enabled and to know its IP address so we can access it remotely. Type the following to access Pi settings and enable SSH:

sudo raspi-config

To determine your Pi’s IP address (which will likely be something like 192.168.0.xxx), type either of the following two commands:

ifconfig # this gives you lots of extra info
hostname -I # this gives you less info, but all we need in this case

Now that SSH is enabled and you know the LAN IP address of the Pi, you can use PuTTY to connect to it from another computer for the rest of your work. The keyboard, mouse, and monitor can now be unplugged from the Raspberry Pi.

Social media monitor

To set up the database, type http://XXX/ phpmyadmin (where XXX is your Pi’s IP address) and log in as root with the password you set previously. Head to the User Accounts section and create a new user called socialCounter.

You can now download the first bit of code for this project by running this in your Terminal window:

cd /var/www/html

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install git -y

sudo git clone https://github.com/paulfp/social- media-counter.git

Next, open up the db.php script and edit it to include the password you set when creating the socialCounter user:

cd ./social-media-counter

sudo nano db.php

The database, including tables and settings, is contained in the socialCounter.sql file; this can be imported either via the Terminal or via phpMyAdmin, then open up the credentials table. To retrieve the subscriber count, YouTube requires a Google API key, so go to console.cloud.google.com and create a new Project (call it anything you like). From the left-hand menu, select ‘APIs & Services’, followed by ‘Library’ and search for the YouTube Data API and enable it. Then go to the ‘Credentials’ tab and create an API key that you can then paste into the ‘googleApiKey’ database field.

Facebook requires you to create an app at developers.facebook.com, after which you can paste the details into the facebookAppId and facebookSecret fields. Unfortunately, due to recent scandals surrounding clandestine misuse of personal data on Facebook, you’ll need to submit your app for review and approval before it will work.

The ‘social_accounts’ table is where you enter the user names for the social networks you want to monitor, so replace those with your own and then open a new tab and navigate to http://XXX/socialmedia-counter. You should now see a black page with a tiny carousel showing the social media icons plus follower counts next to each one. The reason it’s so small is because it’s a 64×16 pixel portion of the screen that we’ll be displaying on our 64×16 LED boards.

GPIO pins to LED display

Now that you have your social network follower counts being grabbed and displayed, it’s time to get that to display on our screens. The first step is to wire them up with the DuPont jumper cables from the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins to the connection on the first board. This is quite fiddly, but there’s an excellent guide and diagram on GitHub within Henner Zeller’s library that we’ll be using later, so head to hsmag.cc/PLyRcK and refer to wiring.md.

The Raspberry Pi connects to the RGB LED screens with 14 jumper cables, and the screens are daisy-chained together with a ribbon cable

The second screen is daisy-chained to the first one with the ribbon cable, and the power connector that comes with the screens will plug into both panels. Once you’re done, your setup should look just like the picture on this page.

To display the Pi’s HDMI output on the LED screens, install Adafruit’s rpi-fb-matrix library (which in turn uses Henner Zeller’s library to address the panels) by typing the following commands:

sudo apt-get install -y build-essential libconfig++-dev

cd ~

git clone --recursive https://github.com/ adafruit/rpi-fb-matrix.git

cd rpi-fb-matrix

Next, you must define your wiring as regular. Type the following to edit the Makefile:

nano Makefile

Look for the HARDWARE_DESC= property and ensure the line looks like this: export HARDWARE_DESC=regular before saving and exiting nano. You’re now ready to compile the code, so type this and then sit back and watch the output:

make clean all

Once that’s done, there are a few more settings to change in the matrix configuration file, so open that up:

nano matrix.cfg

You need to make several changes in here, depending on your setup:

  • Change display_width to 64 and display_height to 16
  • Set panel_width to 32 and panel_height to 16
  • Set chain_length to 2
  • Set parallel_count to 1

The panel array should look like this:

panels = ( 
  ( { order = 1; rotate = 0; }, { order = 0; rotate = 0; } )
)

Uncomment the crop_origin = (0, 0) line to tell the tool that we don’t want to squish the entire display onto our screens, just an equivalent portion starting right in the top left of the display. Press CTRL+X, then Y, then ENTER to save and exit.

It ain’t pretty…but it’s out of sight. The Raspberry Pi plus the power supply for the screens fit nice and neatly behind the screens. I left each end open to allow airflow

Finally, before you can test the output, there are some other important settings you need to change first, so open up the Raspberry Pi’s boot configuration as follows:

sudo nano /boot/config.txt

First, disable the on-board sound (as it uses hardware that the screens rely on) by looking for the line that says dtparam=audio=on and changing it to off. Also, uncomment the line that says hdmi_force_hotplug=1, to ensure that an HDMI signal is still generated even with no HDMI monitor plugged in. Save and then reboot your Raspberry Pi.

Now run the program using the config you just set:

cd ~/rpi-fb-matrix

sudo ./rpi-fb-matrix matrix.cfg

You should now see the top 64×16 pixels of your Pi’s display represented on your RGB LED panels! This probably consists of the Raspberry Pi icon and the rest of the top portion of the display bar.

No screensaver!

At this point it’s important to ensure that there’s no screensaver or screen blanking enabled on the Pi, as you want this to display all the time. To disable screen blanking, first install the xscreensaver tool:

sudo apt-get install xscreensaver

That will add a screensaver option to the Pi’s GUI menus, allowing you to disable it completely. Finally, you need to tell the Raspberry Pi to do two things each time it loads:

  • Run the rpi-fb-matrix program (like we did manually just now)
  • Open the web browser in fullscreen (‘kiosk’ mode), pointed to the Social Counter web page

To do so, edit the Pi’s autostart configuration file:

sudo nano ~/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart

Insert the following two lines at the end:

@sudo /home/pi/rpi-fb-matrix/rpi-fb-matrix /home/ pi/rpi-fb-matrix/matrix.cfg\

@chromium-browser --kiosk http://localhost/ social-media-counter

Et voilà!

Disconnect any keyboard, monitor, or mouse from the Pi and reboot it one more time. Once it’s started up again, you should have a fully working display cycling through each enabled social network, showing up-to-date follower counts for each.

It’s now time to make a surround to hold all the components together and allow you to wall-mount your display. The styling you go for is up to you — you could even go all out and design and 3D print a custom package.

The finished product, in pride of place on the wall of our office. Now I just need some more subscribers…!

For my surround, I went for the more rustic and homemade look, and used some spare bits of wood from an internal door frame lining. This worked really well due to the pre-cut recess. With a plywood back, you can screw everything together so that the wood holds the screens tightly enough to not require any extra fitting or gluing, making for easier future maintenance. To improve the look and readability of the display (as well as soften the light and reduce the brightness), you can use a reflective diffuser from an old broken LED TV if you can lay your hands on one from eBay or a TV repair shop, or just any other bit of translucent material. I found that two layers stapled on worked and looked great. Add some hooks to the back and — Bob’s your uncle — a finished, wall-mounted display!

Phew — that was quite an advanced build, but you now have a sophisticated display that can be used for any number of things and should delight your customers whilst helping to build your social following as well. Don’t forget to tweet us a picture of yours!

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HackSpace magazine 8: Raspberry Pi <3 Arduino

Post Syndicated from Andrew Gregory original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/hackspace-magazine-8/

Arduino is officially brilliant. It’s the perfect companion for your Raspberry Pi, opening up new possibilities for robotics, drones and all sorts of physical computing projects. In HackSpace magazine issue 8  we’re taking a look at what’s going on on planet Arduino, and how it can make our world better.

HackSpace magazine

This little board and its ecosystem are hugely important to the world of digital making. It’s affordable, it’s powerful, and it’s open hardware so you know that if you embed one of these in a project and the company goes bust tomorrow, the hardware will always be viable.

Arduino has helped power a new generation of digital makers, and now with a new team in charge, new boards and new software, it’s ready for the next generation.

Noisy toys

We get to speak to loads of fascinating people, but this month marks the first time we’ve ever met a science busker. Meet Stephen Summers, a former teacher who makes a mess with cornflour, water, and sound waves, all in the name of sharing the joy of physics.

HackSpace magazine

Glass-blowing

While we love messing about with digital technologies, we’re also a big fan of good old-fashioned craft skills. And you can’t get much more old-fashioned than traditional glass-blowing. Join us as we attempt to turn red hot molten glass into a multicoloured object without burning ourselves or setting anything on fire.

Guitar synth

People are endlessly clever, inventive, and all-round brilliant. A fantastic example is Björk, the Icelandic musician whose work defies categorisation. Another is Matt Bradshaw, who has made a synthesiser that you play by strumming six metal strings with a plectrum to complete a circuit. Oh, and named it after Björk. Read all about it and get inspired to do something equally bonkers.

HackSpace magazine

Machine learning

Do you have children? Do they leave the lights on all the time, causing you to shout, “THIS ISN’T BLACKPOOL FLAMING ILLUMINATIONS, YOU KNOW!” Well, now you can replace those children with an Arduino. With a bit of machine learning, the Arduino can train itself to turn the lights on and off at the right time, all the time. Plus they don’t cost as much as human children, so it’s a double win!

Dry ice cream

When the sun comes out in Blighty, it doesn’t hang around for long. So why wait for your domestic fridge to freeze your tasty dairy-based desserts, when you can add some solid carbon dioxide and freeze it in a flash? Follow our tutorial and you too can have tasty treats with the ironically warm glow that comes from using chemicals at -78°C.

HackSpace magazine

And there’s more

We’ve filled the rest of the magazine with a robot orchestra, watch restoration, audio boards for Raspberry Pi, magical colour-changing wearables, and more. Get stuck in!



Get your copy of HackSpace magazine

If you like the sound of this month’s content, you can find HackSpace magazine in WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and independent newsagents in the UK. If you live in the US, check out your local Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center next week. We’re also shipping to stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil, so be sure to ask your local newsagent whether they’ll be getting HackSpace magazine.

And if you can’t get to the shops, fear not: you can subscribe from £4 an issue from our online shop. And if you’d rather try before you buy, you can always download the free PDF. Happy reading, and happy making!

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