How do you create a 3D model of a historic graveyard? With eight Raspberry Pi computers, as Rob Zwetsloot discovers in the latest issue of The MagPi magazine, out now.
“In the city centre of Dundee is a historical burial ground, The Howff,” says Daniel Muirhead. We should probably clarify that he’s a 3D artist. “This old graveyard is densely packed with around 1500 gravestones and other funerary monuments, which happens to make it an excellent technical challenge for photogrammetry photo capture.”
This architecture, stone paths, and vibrant flora is why Daniel ended up creating a 3D-scanning rig out of eight Raspberry Pi computers. And the results are quite stunning.
“The goal of this project was to capture photos for use in generating a 3D model of the ground,” he continues. “That model will be used as a base for attaching individual gravestone models and eventually building up a full composite model of this complex subject. The ground model will also be purposed for rendering an ultra-high-resolution map of the graveyard. The historical graveyard has a very active community group that are engaged in its study and digitisation, the Dundee Howff Conservation Group, so I will be sharing my digital outputs with them.”
To move the rig throughout the graveyard, Daniel used himself as the major moving part. With the eight Raspberry Pi cameras taking a photo every two seconds, he was able to capture over 180,000 photos over 13 hours of capture sessions.
“The rig was held above my head and the cameras were angled in such a way as to occlude me from view, so I was not captured in the photographs which instead were focused on the ground,” he explains. “Of the eight cameras, four were the regular model with 53.5 ° horizontal field of view (FoV), and the other four were a wide-angle model with 120 ° FoV. These were arranged on the rig pointing outwards in eight different directions, alternating regular and wide-angle, all angled at a similar pitch down towards the ground. During capture, the rig was rotated by +45 ° for every second position, so that the wide-angles were facing where the regulars had been facing on the previous capture, and vice versa.” Daniel worked according to a very specific grid pattern, staying in one spot for five seconds at a time, with the hopes that at the end he’d have every patch of ground photographed from 16 different positions and angles.
“With a lot of photo data to scan through for something fairly complex, we wondered how well the system had worked. Daniel tells us the only problems he had were with some bug fixing on his code: “The images were separated into batches of around 10,000 (1250 photos from each of the eight cameras), plugged into the photogrammetry software, and the software had no problem in reconstructing the ground as a 3D model.”
Accessible 3D surveying
He’s now working towards making it accessible and low-cost to others that might want it. “Low-cost in the triple sense of financial, labour, and time,” he clarifies. “I have logged around 8000 hours in a variety of photogrammetry softwares, in the process capturing over 300,000 photos with a regular camera for use in such files, so I have some experience in this area.”
“With the current state of technology, it should be possible with around £1000 in equipment to perform a terrestrial photo-survey of a town centre in under an hour, then with a combined total of maybe three hours’ manual processing and 20 hours’ automated computer processing, generate a high-quality 3D model, the total production time being under 24 hours. It should be entirely plausible for a local community group to use such a method to perform weekly (or at least monthly) 3D snapshots of their town centre.”
Following on from Rob Zwetsloot’s Haunted House Hacks in the latest issue of The MagPi magazine, GitHub’s Martin Woodward has created a spooky pumpkin that warns you about the thing programmers find scariest of all — broken builds. Here’s his guest post describing the project:
“When you are browsing code looking for open source projects, seeing a nice green passing build badge in the ReadMe file lets you know everything is working with the latest version of that project. As a programmer you really don’t want to accidentally commit bad code, which is why we often set up continuous integration builds that constantly check the latest code in our project.”
“I decided to create a 3D-printed pumpkin that would hold a Raspberry Pi Zero with an RGB LED pHat on top to show me the status of my build for Halloween. All the code is available on GitHub alongside the 3D printing models which are also available on Thingiverse.”
Raspberry Pi Zero (I went for the WH version to save me soldering on the header pins)
Unicorn pHat from Pimoroni
Panel mount micro-USB extension
M2.5 hardware for mounting (screws, male PCB standoffs, and threaded inserts)
“For the 3D prints, I used a glow-in-the-dark PLA filament for the main body and Pi holder, along with a dark green PLA filament for the top plug.”
“I’ve been using M2.5 threaded inserts quite a bit when printing parts to fit a Raspberry Pi, as it allows you to simply design a small hole in your model and then you push the brass thread into the gap with your soldering iron to melt it securely into place ready for screwing in your device.”
“Once the inserts are in, you can screw the Raspberry Pi Zero into place using some brass PCB stand-offs, place the Unicorn pHAT onto the GPIO ports, and then screw that down.”
“Then you screw in the panel-mounted USB extension into the back of the pumpkin, connect it to the Raspberry Pi, and snap the Raspberry Pi holder into place in the bottom of your pumpkin.”
“Format the micro SD Card and install Raspberry Pi OS Lite. Rather than plugging in a keyboard and monitor, you probably want to do a headless install, configuring SSH and WiFi by dropping an ssh file and a wpa_supplicant.conf file onto the root of the SD card after copying over the Raspbian files.”
“You’ll need to install the Unicorn HAT software, but they have a cool one-line installer that takes care of all the dependencies including Python and Git.”
# How often to check (in seconds). Remember - be nice to the server. Once every 5 minutes is plenty.
REFRESH_INTERVAL = 300
“Finally you can run the script as root:”
sudo python ~/PumpkinPi/src/pumpkinpi.py &
“Once you are happy everything is running how you want, don’t forget you can run the script at boot time. The easiest way to do this is to use crontab. See this cool video from Estefannie to learn more. But basically you do sudo crontab -e then add the following:”
“Note that we are pausing for 10 seconds before running the Python script. This is to allow the WiFi network to connect before we check on the state of our build.”
“The current version of the pumpkinpi script works with all the SVG files produced by the major hosted build providers, including GitHub Actions, which is free for open source projects. But if you want to improve the code in any way, I’m definitely accepting pull requests on it.”
“Using the same hardware you could monitor lots of different things, such as when someone posts on Twitter, what the weather will be tomorrow, or maybe just code your own unique multi-coloured display that you can leave flickering in your window.”
“If you build this project or create your own pumpkin display, I’d love to see pictures. You can find me on Twitter @martinwoodward and on GitHub.”
Spookify your home in time for Halloween with Rob Zwetsloot and these terror-ific projects!
We picked four of our favourites from a much longer feature in the latest issue of The MagPi magazine, so make sure you check it out if you need more Haunted House hacks in your life.
Raspberry Pi Haunted House
This project is a bit of a mixture of indoors and outdoors, with a doorbell on the house activating a series of spooky effects like a creaking door, ‘malfunctioning’ porch lights, and finally a big old monster mash in the garage.
MagPi magazine talked to its creator Stewart Watkiss about it a few years ago and he revealed how he used a PiFace HAT to interface with home automation techniques to create the scary show, although it can be made much easier these days thanks to Energenie. Our favourite part, though, is still the Home Alone-esque monster party that caps it off.
The dreaded dark lord Sauron from Lord of the Rings watched over Middle-earth in the form of a giant flaming eye atop his black tower, Barad-dûr. Mike Christian’s version sits on top of a shed in Saratoga, CA.
It makes use of the Snake Eyes Bonnet from Adafruit, with some code modifications and projecting onto a bigger eye. Throw in some cool lights and copper wires and you get a nice little effect, much like that from the films.
A classic indoor Halloween decoration (and outdoor, according to American movies) is the humble Jack-o’-lantern. While you could carve your own for this kind of project (and we’ve seen many people do so), this version uses a pre-cut, 3D-printed pumpkin.
If you want to put one outside as well, we highly recommend you add some waterproofing or put it under a porch of some kind, especially if you live in the UK.
You’re unlikely to trick someone already in your house with a random door that has appeared out of nowhere, but while they’re investigating they’ll get the scare of their life. This door was created as a ‘sequel’ to a Scary Porch, and has a big monitor where a window might be in the door. There’s also an array of air-pistons just behind the door to make it sound like someone is trying to get out.
There are various videos that can play on the door screen, and they’re randomised so any viewers won’t know what to expect. This one also uses relays, so be careful.
This project is the brainchild of the element14 community and you can read more about how it was made here.
Growing into the Role: A Tuberspective into the Greenest Member of Support
We’d like to introduce you to the newest member of the Tech Support crew, KC3. (To be clear, his name is KC, but we already have two Casey’s!)
This lil’ spud is a real go-getter. Although not yet answering tickets or eye deep in support chats, he brings a real spark of life to the team. Brought on by an existing Support Tech, Dan Mote, with a recommendation from one of our Physical Media Techs, JC Castaneda, we knew KC3 would dig right in and get dirty, working alongside everyone else.
To be candid, he did have to be carried initially, but once he’d been with us a couple of weeks, he really set down roots. Since then, he has been invaluable to other teams as well!
As is customary for all new hires, he had to do “The Questionnaire”!
Backblaze: What is your Backblaze title?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: How Prestigious. For entry-level? Wow. Where are you originally from?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: Real strong roots there. Nice! What attracted you to Backblaze?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: We appreciate that. What do you expect to learn while being at Backblaze?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: Lofty goals indeed. Where else have you worked?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: Started at ground level, how industrious! Where did you go to school?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: Ivy league, neat! What’s your dream job?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: Such noble aspirations. Of what achievements are you most proud?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: That’s so sweet. Why do you like certain things?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: How insightful! Favorite place you’ve traveled?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: That’s fairly far afield, sounds fun. Favorite hobby?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: That’s a hot scene, I could see hopping from place to place. Favorite food?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: Sorry, we won’t bring it up again. Star Trek or Star Wars?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: Wise choice, considering the split in the office already. Coke or Pepsi?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: No, no, vodka is an acceptable answer. Anything else you’d like to tell us?
KC3: “ . . . ”
B: Deep. We look forward to you applying that salt-of-the-earth wisdom to your tasks!
Although not a-peeling during his first few days, he has unequivocally grown over the last few weeks. So much so that he has even risen to a spudvisory role—keeping an even tone and demeanor, even when engaged in difficult conversations.
Thanks for joining the team, KC3. We look forward to you continually rising to the challenge, reaching higher and higher with your perfectly starched attire!
Have a hard time deciding what to be on Halloween? Just be everything. Some links for the project below. Support my Free Open Source Projects by becoming joining the Patreon!
Face-changing projection mask
Sean designed his own PCB – classic Sean – to connect the header pins of a Raspberry Pi Zero to a pico projector. He used Photoshop to modify video and image files in order to correct the angle of projection onto the mask.
He then 3D-printed this low poly mask from Thingiverse, adapting the design to allow him to attach it to a welding mask headband he purchased online.
As Sean explains in the video, there are a lot of great ways you can use the mask. Our favourite suggestion is using a camera to take a photo of someone and project their own face back at them. This idea is reminiscent of the As We Are project in Columbus, Ohio, where visitors sit inside a 14-foot tall head as their face is displayed on screens covering the outside.
For more of Sean’s excellent Raspberry Pi projects, check out his YouTube channel, and be sure to show him some love by clicking the ol’ subscribe button.
This is the third post in a series of post exchanges with our friends at Lensrentals.com, a popular online site for renting photography, videography, and lighting equipment. Seeing as how Halloween is just a few days away, we thought it appropriate to offer some scary tales of camera and data catastrophes. Enjoy.
Stories of Camera and Data Catastrophes by Zach Sutton, Editor-in-chief, Lensrentals.com
As one of the largest photo and video gear rental companies in the world, Lensrentals.com ships out thousands of pieces of gear each day. It would be impossible to expect that all of our gear would return to us in the same condition it was in when we rented it out. More often than not, the damage is the result of things being dropped, but now and then some pretty interesting things happen to the gear we rent out.
We have an incredible customer base, and when this kind of damage happens, they’re more than happy to pay the necessary repair fees. Stuff happens, mistakes are made, and we have a full-service repair center to keep the costs low. And while we have insurance policies for accidental damage such as drops, dings, and other accidents, it doesn’t cover neglect, which accounts for the stories we’re going to share with you below. Let’s take a look at some of our more exciting camera and data catastrophe stories.
Camera Data Catastrophes
Data catastrophes happen more often than anything else, but aren’t exactly the most exciting stories we’ve gotten over the years. The stories are usually similar. Someone rents a memory card or SSD from us, uses the card/SSD, then sends it back without pulling the footage off of it. When we receive gear back into our warehouse, we inspect and format all the media. If you realize your mistake and call or email us before that happens, we can usually put a hold on the media and ship it back to you to pull the data off of it. If we’ve already formatted the media, we will perform a recovery on the data using software such as TestDisk and PhotoRec, and let you know if we had any success. We then give you the option whether or not you want to rent the product again to have it shipped to you so you can pull the files.
The Salty Sony A7sII
A common issue we run into — and have addressed a number of times on our blog — is the dubious term “weather resistant.” This term is often used by equipment marketers and doesn’t give you the protection that people might assume by its name.
One example of that was last year, when we received a nonfunctioning Sony a7sII back from the California coast, and had to disassemble it to determine what was wrong. Upon opening the camera, it was quite apparent that it had been submerged in salt water. Water isn’t good for electronics, but the real killer is impurities, such as salt. Salt builds up on electronics, is a conductor of electricity, and will fry electronics in no time when power is applied. So, once we saw the salt corrosion, we knew that the camera was irreparable. Still, we disassembled it for no other reason than to provide evidence to others on what salt water can do to your electronics. You can read more about this and see the full break down in our post, About Getting Your Camera Wet… Teardown of a Salty Sony A7sII.
The Color Run Cleanup
Color runs are 5K running events that happen all over the world. If you haven’t seen one, participants and spectators toss colorful powders throughout the run, so that by the time the runners reach the finish line, they’re covered head to toe in colorful powder. This event sounds like a lot of fun, and one would naturally want to take photos of the spectacle, but any camera gear used for the event will definitely require a deep cleaning.
We’ve asked our clients multiple times not to take our cameras to color runs, but each year we get another system back that is covered in pink, green, and blue dust. The dust used for these events is incredibly fine, making it easy to get into every nook and cranny within the camera body and lenses. This requires the gear to be completely disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled. We have two photos in this post of the results of a color run, but you can view more on the post we did about Color runs back in 2013, How to Ruin Your (or Our) Gear in 5 Minutes (Without Water).
The Eclipse That Killed Cameras
About a year ago, we had the incredible phenomenon here in the United States of a total solar eclipse. It was the first total solar eclipse to occur in the continental United States since 1979, hence a pretty exciting moment for all of us, but we braced ourselves for the damage it would do to cameras.
For weeks leading up to the event, we sent out fliers with our rentals that encouraged people to not only wear eye protection, but to protect their camera lenses with high-density ND filters. Despite that, in the days following the eclipse, we had gear coming back to us with aperture blades melted and holes burnt into sensors.
As one would expect, it’s not a good idea to point your camera directly at the sun, especially for long periods of time. Most of the damage done from the eclipse was caused by people who had set up their camera and lens on a tripod pointing at the sun while waiting for the eclipse. This prolonged exposure causes a lot of heat to build up and will eventually start burning through apertures, shutters, sensors and anything else in its way. Not only do we recommend ND filters for the front of your lens, but also black cards to stop light from entering the camera until it’s go time for the total eclipse. You can read about the whole experience in our blog post on the topic, Rental Camera Gear Destroyed by the Solar Eclipse of 2017.
Damage from Burning Man
While we have countless stories of gear being destroyed, we figured it’d be best to just leave you with this one. Burning Man is an annual event that takes place in the deserts of Nevada. Touted as an art installation and experience, tens of thousands of people spend a few days living in the remote desert with fellow Burners to create and participate in a wide range of activities. And where there is a desert, there always are sand, dust, and dust storms.
One might think that sand is the biggest nuisance for camera gear at Burning Man, but it’s actually the fine dust that the wind picks up. One of the more interesting phenomena that happens during Burning Man are the dust storms. The dust storms occur with little warning, kicking up the fine dust buried within the sand that can quickly cause damage to your electronics, your skin, and your lungs. Because it is so fine, it is easily able to enter your cameras and lenses.
While Burning Man doesn’t always totally destroy gear, it does result in a lot of cleaning and disassembling of gear after the event. This takes time and patience and costs the customer money. While there are stories of people who bring camera gear to Burning Man wrapped in nothing more than plastic and gaffer tape, we don’t recommend that for good gear. It’s best to just leave your camera at home, or buy an old camera for cheap to document the week. To see more of what can happen to gear at Burning Man, you can read our blog post on the topic, Please, Don’t Take Our Photography and Video Gear to Burning Man.
Those are just a few stories of some of the data and camera catastrophes that we’ve experienced over the years. We hope this serves as a warning to those who might be considering putting their gear through some of the experiences above and hopefully sway them against it. If you have some of your own stories on data or gear catastrophes, feel free to share them below in the comments.
How to make a voice changer with Raspberry Pi Zero for Halloween Buy MIC+ sound card on Amazon : goo.gl/VDFzu7 tutorial here: https://www.instructables.com/id/Halloween-Voice-Changer-With-Raspberry-Pi/ https://www.raspiaudio.com/halloween
Halloween — we love it!
Grab your ghostly fairy lights, hollow out your pumpkins, and hunt down your box of spooky knick-knacks — it’s Halloween season! And with every year that passes, we see more and more uses of the Raspberry Pi in haunting costumes and decorations.
At the top of the list is an increase in the number of voice changers. And Olivier Ros’s recent project is a great example of an easy-to-build piece costumimg that’s possible thanks to the small footprint of the Raspberry Pi Zero.
Playdough: so many uses, yet all we wanted to do as kids was eat it.
Oliver used a Pi Zero, though if you have the mask fit it into, you could use any 40-pin Pi and an audio DAC HAT such as this one. He also used Playdough to isolate the Zero and keep it in place, but some foam should do the trick too. Just see what you have lying around.
When I said this is an easy project, I meant it: Olivier has provided the complete code for you to install on a newly setup SD card, or to download via the terminal on your existing Raspbian configuration.
If you’re looking to beef up your Halloween game this October, you should really include a Raspberry Pi in the mix. For example, our Halloween Pumpkin Light tutorial allows you to control the light show inside your carved fruit without the risk of fire. Yes, you read that correctly: a pumpkin is a fruit.
Hey folks! Rob from The MagPi here with the good news that a brand new issue is out today, with a slightly new look. The MagPi 74 shows you how to build a Pi‑powered laptop, and gives tips on how to recycle an old laptop to use with Pi.
The laptop is not spooky, but the Halloween projects definitely are
We’ve got a pretty simple, tiny laptop build that you can follow along with, which will easily slip into your pocket once it’s completed. We also cover the basic Raspberry Pi Desktop experience, in case you fancy installing the x86 version to bring new life to an old laptop.
Welcome, foolish mortals…
I’m also very happy to announce that The MagPi Halloween projects feature is back this year! Put together by yours truly, Haunted Halloween Hacks should get you in the mood for the spookiest time of the year. October is the only month of the year that I’m allowed to make puns, so prepare yourself for some ghastly groaners.
Rob has unleashed his awful alliteration skills this issue, with some putrid puns
Still want more?
On top of all that, you can find more fantastic guides on making games in Python and in C/C++, along with our brand new Quickstart guide, a review of the latest Picade, and more inspiring projects than you can shake a Pi Zero at.
Qwerty the fish keeps this garden growing
Start making a Space Invaders clone with Pygame!
Get The MagPi 74
You can get The MagPi 74 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 for a print copy. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.
Rolling subscription offer!
Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine? You can now take out a monthly £5 subscription to the magazine, effectively creating a rolling pre‑order system that saves you money on each issue.
You can also take out a twelve-month print subscription and get a Pi Zero W plus case and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.
We need you!
Issue 75 is next month, and we’re planning to showcase 75 amazing Raspberry Pi projects! We need your help to vote for the top 50, so please head to the voting page and choose your favourite project. Click on a project name to cast your vote for that project.
That’s it for now! Oh, and if you make any Raspberry Pi Halloween projects this year, send them to us on Twitter or via email.
In his Christmas lights project, Caleb Johnson uses an app as a control panel to switch between predefined displays. The full code is available on his GitHub, and it connects a Raspberry Pi A+ to a strip of programmable LEDs that change their pattern at the touch of a phone screen.
What’s great about this project, aside from the simplicity of its design, is the scope for extending it. Why not share the app with friends and family, allowing them to control your lights remotely? Or link the lights to social media so they are triggered by a specific hashtag, like in Alex Ellis’ #cheerlights project below.
Here we have a smart holiday light which will only run when it detects your presence in the room through a passive infrared PIR sensor. I’ve used hot glue for the fixings and an 8-LED NeoPixel strip connected to port 18.
Cheerlights, an online service created by Hans Scharler, allows makers to incorporate hashtag-controlled lighting into the projects. By tweeting the hashtag #cheerlights, followed by a colour, you can control a network of lights so that they are all displaying the same colour.
For his holiday light hack using Cheerlights, Alex incorporated the Pimoroni Blinkt! and a collection of cheap Christmas decorations to create cute light-up ornaments for the festive season.
To make your own, check out Alex’s blog post, and head to your local £1/$1 store for hackable decor. You could even link your Christmas tree and the trees of your family, syncing them all in one glorious, Santa-pleasing spectacular.
With just a few bucks of extra material, I walk you through converting your regular Christmas lights into a whole-house light show. The goal here is to go from scratch. Although this guide is intended for people who don’t know how to use linux at all and those who do alike, the focus is for people for whom linux and the raspberry pi are a complete mystery.
Looking to outdo your neighbours with your Christmas light show this year? YouTuber Makin’Things has created a beginners guide to setting up a Raspberry Pi–based musical light show for your facade, complete with information on soldering, wiring, and coding.
Once you’ve wrapped your house in metres and metres of lights and boosted your speakers so they can be heard for miles around, why not incorporate #cheerlights to make your outdoor decor interactive?
Still not enough? How about controlling your lights using a drum kit? Christian Kratky’s MIDI-Based Christmas Lights Animation system (or as I like to call it, House Rock) does exactly that.
Project documentation and source code: https://www.hackster.io/cyborg-titanium-14/light-pi-1c88b0 The song is taken from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6r1dAire0Y
We know these projects are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Raspberry Pi–powered Christmas projects out there, and as always, we’d love you to share yours with us. So post a link in the comments below, or tag us on social media when posting your build photos, videos, and/or blog links. ‘Tis the season for sharing after all.
OK, fine. You’re after something properly frightening. How about the haunted magic mirror by Kapitein Haak, or this one, with added Philips Hue effects, by Ben Eagan. As if your face first thing in the morning wasn’t shocking enough.
If you find those rigid-faced, bow-lipped, plastic dolls more sinister than sweet – and you’re right to do so: they’re horrible – you won’t like this evil toy. Possessed by an unquiet shade, it’s straight out of my nightmares.
Earlier this month we covered Adafruit’s haunted portrait how-to. This build by Dominick Marino takes that concept to new, terrifying, heights.
This recreation of Billy the Puppet from the Saw franchise is Pi-powered, it’s mobile, and it talks. You can remotely control it, and I am not even remotely OK with it. That being said, if you’re keen to have one of your own, be my guest. Just follow the guide on Instructables. It’s your funeral.
Make your Halloween
It’s been a great year for scary Raspberry Pi makes, and we hope you have a blast using your Pi to get into the Halloween spirit.
And speaking of spirits, Matt Reed of RedPepper has created a Pi-based ghost detector! It uses Google’s Speech Neural Network AI to listen for voices in the ether, and it’s live-streaming tonight. Perfect for watching while you’re waiting for the trick-or-treaters to show up.
Leaves are crunching under my boots, Halloween is tomorrow, and pumpkin is having its annual moment in the sun – it’s fall everybody! And just in time to celebrate, we have whipped up a fresh batch of pumpkin spice Tech Talks. Grab your planner (Outlook calendar) and pencil these puppies in. This month we are covering re:Invent, serverless, and everything in between.
November 2017 – Schedule
Noted below are the upcoming scheduled live, online technical sessions being held during the month of November. Make sure to register ahead of time so you won’t miss out on these free talks conducted by AWS subject matter experts.
Are you ready to take on the zombie infestation and survive the apocalypse brought about by the undead? This resource shows you how to create a map of a specific area and mark the locations of supplies, secret bases, and enemies, and thus ensure the best chances of survival for you and your team.
By the way, if you’re not into zombies, don’t worry: these resources are easily modifiable to fit any genre or franchise! Jane Eyre for kittens, anyone? Or an ‘Hide from the stormtroopers’ map?
If you’re a person between the age of 11 and 16 and based in the UK or Ireland, or if you know one who enjoys making, make sure to check out our newest Pioneers challenge, Only you can save us.
We’re tasking our Pioneers to build something to help humankind survive a calamity of epic proportions. Are you up for the challenge?
The Raspberry Pi digital curriculum was created to support our goal of putting the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world.
As Carrie Anne Philbin, Director of Education for the Raspberry Pi Foundation, explains:
We have a large and diverse community of people who are interested in digital making. Some might use the curriculum to help guide and inform their own learning, or perhaps their children’s learning. People who run digital making clubs at schools, community centres, and Raspberry Jams may draw on it for extra guidance on activities that will engage their learners. Some teachers may wish to use the curriculum as inspiration for what to teach their students.
By working through resources such as the ones above, you’re not only learning new skills, but also building on pre-existing ones. You’ll expand both your understanding of digital making and your imagination, and you’ll be able to use what you’ve gained when you create your own exciting projects.
All of our resources are available for free on our website, and we continually update them to offer you more ways to work on your abilities, whatever your age and experience may be.
Have you built anything using our resources? Let us know in the comments!
After becoming internet-famous for their interactive Christmas lights, the Poplawskis have expanded their festive offerings this year with Holiday Frights, a fiendish collection of spooky decor controlled by a Raspberry Pi.
The Poplawskis’ holiday lights
Full of lights and inflatable decorations sprawling across the front lawn, the annual pi-powered Poplawski Christmas setup is something we await eagerly here at Pi Towers. What better way to celebrate the start of the holiday season than by inflating reindeer and flashing fairy lights on another continent?
image c/o Chris Poplawski
So this year, when an email appeared in our inbox to announce the Holiday Frights Halloween edition, we were over the moon!
It’s about 5am in Easton, Pennsylvania, but I’m 99% sure the residents of the Poplawski’s Holiday Frights home were fully aware of me endlessly toggling their Halloween decorations — on, off, on, off — in the process of creating the GIF above.
The decorations of the Poplawski’s Holiday Frights are controlled by a Raspberry Pi which, in turn, takes input from a website. And while we’ve seen many Pi projects with online interfaces controlling real-life devices, we can’t help but have a soft spot for this particular one because of its pretty, flashy lights.
When you’re on the site, you will also see how many other people are currently online. If you’re not alone, the battle over which lights are turned on or off can commence! In case you’re feeling extra generous, you can donate 10¢ to fix the decorations in a state of your choosing for 60 seconds, while also helping the Poplawskis power their lights.
Have you built something Pi-powered and spooky for Halloween? Make sure to share it with us across our social media accounts or in the comments below.
Search has become the most powerful method to find content on the Web, both for finding websites themselves and for discovering information within websites. Our blog readers find content in both ways — using Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, DuckDuckGo, and other search engines to follow search results directly to our blog, and using the site search function once on our blog to find content in the blog posts themselves.
There’s a Lot of Great Content on the Backblaze Blog
Backblaze’s CEO Gleb Budman wrote the first post for this blog in March of 2008. Since that post there have been 612 more. There’s a lot of great content on this blog, as evidenced by the more than two million page views we’ve had since the beginning of this year. We typically publish two blog posts per week on a variety of topics, but we focus primarily on cloud storage technology and data backup, company news, and how-to articles on how to use cloud storage and various hardware and software solutions.
The Site Search Box — Your gateway to Backblaze blog content
We Could do a Better Job of Helping You Find It
I joined Backblaze as Content Director in July of this year. During the application process, I spent quite a bit of time reading through the blog to understand the company, the market, and its customers. That’s a lot of reading. I used the site search many times to uncover topics and posts, and discovered that site search had a number of weaknesses that made it less-than-easy to find what I was looking for.
These site search weaknesses included:
Searches were case sensitive
Visitor could easily miss content capitalized differently than the search terms
Results showed no date or author information
Visitor couldn’t tell how recent the post was or who wrote it
Search terms were not highlighted in context
Visitor had to scrutinize the results to find the terms in the post
No indication of the number of results or number of pages of results
Visitor didn’t know how fruitful the search was
No record of search terms used by visitors
We couldn’t tell what our visitors were searching for!
I wanted to make it easier for blog visitors to find all the great content on the Backblaze blog and help me understand what our visitors are searching for. To do that, we needed to upgrade our site search.
I started with a list of goals I wanted for site search.
Make it easier to find content on the blog
Provide a summary of what was found
Search the comments as well as the posts
Highlight the search terms in the results to help find them in context
Provide a record of searches to help me understand what interests our readers
I had the goals, now how could I find a solution to achieve them?
Our blog is built on WordPress, which has a built-in site search function that could be described as simply adequate. The most obvious of its limitations is that search results are listed chronologically, not based on “most popular,” most occurring,” or any other metric that might make the result more relevant to your interests.
The Search for Improved (Site) Search
An obvious choice to improve site search would be to adopt Google Site Search, as many websites and blogs have done. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that Google is sunsetting Site Search by April of 2018. That left the choice among a number of third-party services or WordPress-specific solutions. My immediate inclination was to see what is available specifically for WordPress.
There are a handful of search plugins for WordPress. One stood out to me for the number of installations (100,000+) and overwhelmingly high reviews: Relevanssi. Still, I had a number of questions. The first question was whether the plugin retained any search data from our site — I wanted to make sure that the privacy of our visitors is maintained, and even harvesting anonymous search data would not be acceptable to Backblaze. I wrote to the developer and was pleased by the responsiveness from Relevanssi’s creator, Mikko Saari. He explained to me that Relevanssi doesn’t have access to any of the search data from the sites using his plugin. Receiving a quick response from a developer is always a good sign. Other signs of a good WordPress plugin are recent updates and an active support forum.
Our solution: Relevanssi for Site Search
The WordPress plugin Relevanssi met all of our criteria, so we installed the plugin and switched to using it for site search in September.
In addition to solving the problems listed above, our search results are now displayed based on relevance instead of date, which is the default behavior of WordPress search. That capability is very useful on our blog where a lot of the content from years ago is still valuable — often called evergreen content. The new site search also enables visitors to search using the boolean expressions AND and OR. For example, a visitor can search for “seagate AND drive,” and see results that only include both words. Alternatively, a visitor can search for “seagate OR drive” and see results that include either word.
Search results showing total number of results, hits and their location, and highlighted search terms in context
Visitors can put search terms in quotation marks to search for an entire phrase. For example, a visitor can search for “2016 drive stats” and see results that include only that exact phrase. In addition, the site search results come with a summary, showing where the results were found (title, post, or comments). Search terms are highlighted in yellow in the content, showing exactly where the search result was found.
Here’s an example of a popular post that shows up in searches. Hard Drive Stats for Q1 2017 was published on May 9, 2017. Since September 4, it has shown up over 150 times in site searches and in the last 90 days in has been viewed over 53,000 times on our blog.
Since initiating the new search on our blog on September 4, there have been almost 23,000 site searches conducted, so we know you are using it. We’ve implemented pagination for the blog feed and search results so you know how many pages of results there are and made it easier to navigate to them.
Now that we have this site search data, you likely are wondering which are the most popular search terms on our blog. Here are some of the top searches:
Using a @Raspberry_Pi with @pimoroni tilt hat to make a cool puppet for #Halloween https://t.co/pOeTFZ0r29
Made with a Pimoroni Pan-Tilt HAT, a Raspberry Pi, and some VR software on her phone, Lorraine Underwood‘s puppet is going to be a rather fitting doorman to interact with this year’s trick-or-treaters. Follow her project’s progress as she posts it on her blog.
First #pumpkin of the season for Friday the 13th! @PaintYourDragon’s snake eyes bonnet for the #RaspberryPi to handle the eye animation. https://t.co/TSlUUxYP5Q
The Animated Snake Eyes Bonnet is definitely one of the freakiest products to come from the Adafruit lab, and it’s the perfect upgrade for any carved pumpkin this Halloween. Attach the bonnet to a Raspberry Pi 3, or the smaller Zero or Zero W, and thus add animated eyes to your scary orange masterpiece, as Justin Smith demonstrates in his video. The effect will terrify even the bravest of trick-or-treaters! Just make sure you don’t light a candle in there too…we’re not sure how fire-proof the tech is.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of the zombie virus must be in want of braaaaaaains.
No matter whether you share your Halloween builds on Twitter, Facebook, G+, Instagram, or YouTube, we want to see them — make sure to tag us in your posts. We also have a comment section below this post, so go ahead and fill it with your ideas, links to completed projects, and general chat about the world of RasBOOrry Pi!
…sorry, that’s a hideous play on words. I apologise.
Halloween: that glorious time of year when you’re officially allowed to make your friends jump out of their skin with your pranks. For those among us who enjoy dressing up, Halloween is also the occasion to go all out with costumes. And so, dear reader, we present to you: a steampunk tentacle hat, created by Derek Woodroffe.
Derek is an engineer who loves all things electronics. He’s part of Extreme Kits, and he runs the website Extreme Electronics. Raspberry Pi Zero-controlled Tesla coils are Derek’s speciality — he’s even been on one of the Royal Institution’s Christmas Lectures with them! Skip ahead to 15:06 in this video to see Derek in action:
The first Lecture from Professor Saiful Islam’s 2016 series of CHRISTMAS LECTURES, ‘Supercharged: Fuelling the future’. Watch all three Lectures here: http://richannel.org/christmas-lectures 2016 marked the 80th anniversary since the BBC first broadcast the Christmas Lectures on TV. To celebrate, chemist Professor Saiful Islam explores a subject that the lectures’ founder – Michael Faraday – addressed in the very first Christmas Lectures – energy.
Wearables are electronically augmented items you can wear. They might take the form of spy eyeglasses, clothes with integrated sensors, or, in this case, headgear adorned with mechanised tentacles.
Why did Derek make this? We’re not entirely sure, but we suspect he’s a fan of the Cthulu mythos. In any case, we were a little astounded by his project. This is how we reacted when Derek tweeted us about it:
@ExtElec @extkits This is beyond incredible and completely unexpected.
In fact, we had to recover from a fit of laughter before we actually managed to type this answer.
Making a steampunk tentacle hat
Derek made the ‘skeleton’ of each tentacle out of a net curtain spring, acrylic rings, and four lengths of fishing line. Two servomotors connect to two ends of fishing line each, and pull them to move the tentacle.
Then he covered the tentacles with nylon stockings and liquid latex, glued suckers cut out of MDF onto them, and mounted them on an acrylic base. The eight motors connect to a Raspberry Pi via an I2C 8-port PWM controller board.
The Pi makes the servos pull the tentacles so that they move in sine waves in both the x and y directions, seemingly of their own accord. Derek cut open the top of a hat to insert the mounted tentacles, and he used more liquid latex to give the whole thing a slimy-looking finish.
Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!
You can read more about Derek’s steampunk tentacle hat here. He will be at the Beeston Raspberry Jam in November to show off his build, so if you’re in the Nottingham area, why not drop by?
Wearables for Halloween
This build is already pretty creepy, but just imagine it with a sensor- or camera-powered upgrade that makes the tentacles reach for people nearby. You’d have nightmare fodder for weeks.
With the help of the Raspberry Pi, any Halloween costume can be taken to the next level. How could Pi technology help you to win that coveted ‘Scariest costume’ prize this year? Tell us your ideas in the comments, and be sure to share pictures of you in your get-up with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
After making a delightful Bitcoin lottery using a Raspberry Pi, Sean Hodgins brings us more Pi-powered goodness in time for every maker’s favourite holiday: Easter! Just kidding, it’s Halloween. Check out his hair-raising new build, the Haunted Jack in the Box.
This project uses a raspberry pi and face detection using the pi camera to determine when someone is looking at it. Plenty of opportunities to scare people with it. You can make your own!
Imagine yourself wandering around a dimly lit house. Your eyes idly scan a shelf. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a twangy melody! What was that? You take a closer look…there seems to be a box in jolly colours…with a handle that’s spinning by itself?!
You freeze, unable to peel your eyes away, and BAM!, out pops a maniacally grinning clown. You promptly pee yourself. Happy Halloween, courtesy of Sean Hodgins.
Eerie disembodied voice: You’re welco-o-o-ome!
How has Sean built this?
Sean purchased a jack-in-the-box toy and replaced its bottom side with one that would hold the necessary electronic components. He 3D-printed this part, but says you could also just build it by hand.
The bottom of the box houses a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and a servomotor which can turn the windup handle. There’s also a magnetic reed switch which helps the Pi decide when to trigger the Jack. Sean hooked up the components to the Pi’s GPIO pins, and used an elastic band as a drive belt to connect the pulleys on the motor and the handle.
Sean explains that he has used a lot of double-sided tape and superglue in this build. The bottom and top are held together with two screws, because, as he describes it, “the Jack coming out is a little violent.”
But if I explain it, it won’t be scary anymore! OK, fiiiine.
With the help of a a Camera Module and OpenCV, Sean implemented facial recognition: Jack knows when someone is looking at his box, and responds by winding up and popping out.
Testing the haunting script
Sean’s Python script is available here, but as he points out, there are many ways in which you could adapt this code, and the build itself, to be even more frightening.
So very haunted
What would you do with this build? Add creepy laughter? Soundbites from It? Lighting effects? Maybe even infrared light and a NoIR Camera Module, so that you can scare people in total darkness? There are so many possibilities for this project — tell us your idea in the comments.
Think you can create a really spooky Halloween video?
We’re giving out $100 Visa gift cards just in time for the holidays. Want a chance to win? You’ll need to make a spooky 30-second Halloween-themed video. We had a lot of fun with this the last time we did it a few years back so we’re doing it again this year.
Here’s How to Enter
Prepare a short, 30 seconds or less, video recreating your favorite horror movie scene using your computer or hard drive as the victim — or make something original!
Insert the following image at the end of the video (right-click and save as):
Upload your video to YouTube
Post a link to your video on the Backblaze Facebook wall or on Twitter with the hashtag #Backblaze so we can see it and enter it into the contest. Or, link to it in the comments below!
Share your video with friends
Common Questions Q: How many people can be in the video? A: However many you need in order to recreate the scene! Q: Can I make it longer than 30 seconds? A: Maybe 32 seconds, but that’s it. If you want to make a longer “director’s cut,” we’d love to see it, but the contest video should be close to 30 seconds. Please keep it short and spooky. Q: Can I record it on an iPhone, Android, iPad, Camera, etc? A: You can use whatever device you wish to record your video. Q: Can I submit multiple videos? A: If you have multiple favorite scenes, make a vignette! But please submit only one video. Q: How many winners will there be? A: We will select up to three winners total.
To upload the video to YouTube, you must have a valid YouTube account and comply with all YouTube rules for age, content, copyright, etc.
To post a link to your video on the Backblaze Facebook wall, you must use a valid Facebook account and comply with all Facebook rules for age, content, copyrights, etc.
We reserve the right to remove and/or not consider as a valid entry, any videos which we deem inappropriate. We reserve the exclusive right to determine what is inappropriate.
Backblaze reserves the right to use your video for promotional purposes.
The contest will end on October 29, 2017 at 11:59:59 PM Pacific Daylight Time. The winners (up to three) will be selected by Backblaze and will be announced on October 31, 2017.
We will be giving away gift cards to the top winners. The prize will be mailed to the winner in a timely manner.
Please keep the content of the post PG rated — no cursing or extreme gore/violence.
By submitting a video you agree to all of these rules.
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