Tag Archives: Our Staff

Congratulations Carrie Anne Philbin, MBE

Post Syndicated from Janina Ander original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/carrie-anne-philbin-mbe/

We are delighted to share the news that Carrie Anne Philbin, Raspberry Pi’s Director of Educator Support, has been awarded an MBE for her services to education in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020.

Carrie Anne Philbin MBE
Carrie Anne Philbin, newly minted MBE

Carrie Anne was one of the first employees of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and has helped shape our educational programmes over the past six years. Before joining the Foundation, Carrie Anne was a computing teacher, YouTuber, and author.

She’s also a tireless champion for diversity and inclusion in computing; she co-founded a grassroots movement of computing teachers dedicated to diversity and inclusion, and she has mentored young girls and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. She is a fantastic role model and source of inspiration to her colleagues, educators, and young people. 

From history student to computing teacher and YouTuber

As a young girl, Carrie Anne enjoyed arts and crafts and when her dad bought the family a Commodore 64, she loved the graphics she could make on it. She says, “I vividly remember typing in the BASIC commands to create a train that moved on the screen with my dad.” Being able to express her creativity through digital patterns sparked her interest in technology.

After studying history at university, Carrie Anne followed her passion for technology and became an ICT technician at a secondary school, where she also ran several extra-curricular computing clubs for the students. Her school encouraged and supported her to apply for the Graduate Teacher Programme, and she qualified within two years.

Carrie Anne admits that her first experience in a new school as a newly qualified teacher was “pretty terrifying”, and she says her passion for the subject and her sense of humour are what got her through. The students she taught in her classroom still inspire her today.

Showing that computing is for everyone

As well as co-founding CAS #include, a diversity working group for computing teachers, Carrie Anne started the successful YouTube channel Geek Gurl Diaries. Through video interviews with women working in tech and hands-on computer science tutorials, Carrie Anne demonstrates that computing is fun and that it’s great to be a girl who likes computers.

Carrie Anne Philbin MBE sitting at a disk with physical computing equipment

On the back of her own YouTube channel’s success, Carrie Anne was invited to host the Computer Science video series on Crash Course, the extremely popular educational YouTube channel created by Hank and John Green. There, her 40+ videos have received over 2 million views so far.

Discovering the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Carrie Anne says that the Raspberry Pi computer brought her to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and that she stayed “because of the community and the Foundation’s mission“. She came across the Raspberry Pi while searching for new ways to engage her students in computing, and joined a long waiting list to get her hands on the single-board computer. After her Raspberry Pi finally arrived, she carried it in her handbag to community meetups to learn how other people were using it in education.

Carrie Anne Philbin
Carrie Anne with her book Adventures in Raspberry Pi

Since joining the Foundation, Carrie Anne has helped to build an incredible team, many of them also former computing teachers. Together they have trained thousands of educators and produced excellent resources that are used by teachers and learners around the world. Most recently, the team created the Teach Computing Curriculum of over 500 hours of free teaching resources for primary and secondary teachers; free online video lessons for students learning at home during the pandemic (in partnership with Oak National Academy); and Isaac Computer Science, a free online learning platform for A level teachers and students.

On what she wants to empower young people to do

Carrie Anne says, “We’re living in an ever-changing world that is facing many challenges right now: climate change, democracy and human rights, oh and a global pandemic. These are issues that young people care about. I’ve witnessed this year after year at our international Coolest Projects technology showcase event for young people, where passionate young creators present the tech solutions they are already building to address today’s and tomorrow’s problems. I believe that equipped with a deeper understanding of technology, young people can change the world for the better, in ways we’ve not even imagined.” 

Carrie Anne has already achieved a huge amount in her career, and we honestly believe that she is only just getting started. On behalf of all your colleagues at the Foundation and all the educators and young people whose lives you’ve changed, congratulations Carrie Anne! 

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Is upgrade culture out of date?

Post Syndicated from Mac Bowley original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/upgrade-culture/

At Raspberry Pi, we’re interested in all things to do with technology, from building new tools and helping people teach computing, to researching how young people learn to create with technology and thinking about the role tech plays in our lives and society. Today, I’m writing about our habit of replacing devices with newer versions just for the sake of it.

Technology is involved in more of our lives than ever before: most of us carry a computer in our pocket everywhere we go. On the other hand, the length of time for which we use each individual piece of technology has grown very short. This is what’s referred to as upgrade culture, a cycle which sees most of us replacing our most trusted devices every two years with the latest products offered by tech giants like Apple and Samsung.

An illustration of four people using smartphones

How we got to this point is hard to determine, and there does not seem to be a single root cause for upgrade culture. This is why I want to start a conversation about it, so we can challenge our current perspectives and establish fact-based attitudes. I think it’s time that we, as individuals and as a collective, examine our relationship with new technology.

What is the natural lifespan of a device?

Digital technology is still so new that there is really no benchmark for how long digital devices should last. This means that the decision power has by default landed in the hands of device manufacturers and mobile network carriers, and for their profit margins, a two-year lifecycle of devices is beneficial.

Where do you see your role in this process as a consumer? Is it wrong to want to upgrade your phone after two years of constant use? Should phone companies slow their development, and would this hinder innovation? And, if you really need to upgrade, is there a better use for your old device than living in a drawer? These questions defy simple answers, and I want to hear what you think.

How does this affect the environment?

As with all our behaviours as consumers, the impact that upgrade culture has on the environment is an important concern. Environmental issues and climate change aren’t anything new, but they’re currently at the forefront of the global conversation, and for good reason.

Mobile devices are of course made in factories, and the concerns this raises have been covered well in many other places. The same goes for the energy needed to build technology. This energy could, at least in theory, be produced from renewable sources. Here I would like to focus on another aspect of the environmental impact device production has, which relates to the materials necessary to create the tiny components that form our technological best friends.

Some components of your phone cannot be created without extremely rare metals and other elements, such as silicon and lithium. (In fact, there are 83 stable non-radioactive elements in the periodic table, and 70 of them are used in some capacity in your phone.) Upgrade culture means there is high demand for these materials, and deposits are becoming more and more depleted. If you’re hoping there are renewable alternatives, you’ll be disappointed: a study by researchers working at Yale University found that there are currently no alternative materials that are as effective.

Then there’s the issue of how the materials are mined. The market trading these materials is highly competitive, and more often than not manufacturers buy from the companies offer the lowest prices. To maintain their profit margin, these companies have to extract as much material as possible as cheaply as they can. As you can imagine, this leads to mining practices that are less than ethical or environmentally friendly. As many of the mines are located in distant areas of developing countries, these problems may feel remote to you, but they affect a lot of people and are a direct result of the market we are creating by upgrading our devices every two years.

"Two smartphones, blank screen" by Artem Beliaikin is licensed under CC0 1.0

Many of us agree that we need to do what we can to counteract climate change, and that, to achieve anything meaningful, we have to start looking at the way we live our lives. This includes questioning how we use technology. It will be through discussion and opinion gathering that we can start to make more informed decisions — as individuals and as a society.

The obsolescence question

You probably also have that one friend/colleague/family member who swears by their five year old mobile phone and scoffs at the prices of the newest models. These people are often labeled as sticklers who are afraid to join the modern age, but is there another way to see them? The truth is, if you’ve bought a phone in the last five years, then — barring major accidents — it will most likely still function and be just as effective as it was when it came out of the box. So why are so many consumers upgrading to new devices every two years?

"Nextbit Robin Smartphone" by Bhavesh Sondagar is licensed under CC0 1.0

Again there isn’t a single reason, but I think marketing departments should shoulder much of the responsibility. Using marketing strategies, device manufacturers and mobile network carriers purposefully make us see the phones we currently own in a negative light. A common trope of mobile phone adverts is the overwrought comparison of your current device with a newly launched version. Thus, each passing day after a new model is released, our opinion of our current device worsens, even if it’s just on a subconscious level.

This marketing strategy is related to a business practice called planned obsolescence, which sees manufacturers purposefully limit the durability of their products in order to sell more units. An early example of planned obsolescence is the lightbulb, invented at the Edison company: it was relatively simple for the company to create a lightbulb that lasted 2500 hours, but it took years and a coalition of manufacturers to make a version that reliably broke after 1000 hours. We’re all aware that the lightbulb revolutionised many aspects of life, but it turns out it also had a big influence on consumer habits and what we see as acceptable practices of technology companies.

The widening digital divide

The final aspect of the impact of upgrade culture that I want to examine relates to the digital divide. This term describes the societal gap between the people with access to, and competence with, the latest technology, and the people without these privileges. To be able to upgrade, say, your mobile phone to the latest model every two years, you either need a great degree of financial freedom, or you need to tie yourself to a 24-month contract that may not be easily within your means. As a society, we revere the latest technology and hold people with access to it in high regard. What does this say to people who do not have this access?

"DeathtoStock_Creative Community5" by Denis Labrecque is licensed under CC0 1.0

Inadvertently, we are widening the digital divide by placing more value on new technology than is warranted. Innovation is exciting, and commercial success is celebrated — but do you ever stop and ask who really benefits from this? Is your new phone really that much better than the old one, or could it be that you’re mostly just basking in feeling the social rewards of having the newest bit of kit?

What about Raspberry Pi technology?

Obviously, this blog post wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t share our perspective as a technology company as well. So here’s Raspberry Pi Trading CEO Eben Upton:

On our hardware and software

“Raspberry Pi tries very hard to avoid obsoleting older products. Obviously the latest Raspberry Pi 4 runs much faster than a Raspberry Pi 1 (something like forty times faster), but a Raspbian image we release today will run on the very earliest Raspberry Pi prototypes from the summer of 2011. Cutting customers off from software support after a couple of years is unethical, and bad for business in the long term: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. The best companies respect their customers’ investment in their platforms, even if that investment happened far in the past.”

“What’s even more unusual about Raspberry Pi is that we aim to keep our products available for a long period of time. So you can’t just run a 2020 software build on a 2014 Raspberry Pi 1B+: you can actually buy a brand-new 1B+ to run it on.”

On the environmental impact of our hardware

“We’re constantly working to reduce the environmental footprint of Raspberry Pi. If you look next to the USB connectors on Raspberry Pi 4, you’ll see a chunky black component. This is the reservoir capacitor, which prevents the 5V rail from dropping too far when a new USB device is plugged in. By using a polymer electrolytic capacitor, from our friends at Panasonic, we’ve been able to avoid the use of tantalum.”

“When we launched the official USB-C power supply for Raspberry Pi 4, one or two people on Twitter asked if we could eliminate the single-use plastic bag which surrounded the cable and plug assembly inside the box. Working with our partners at Kuantech, we found that we could easily do this for the white supplies, but not for the black ones. Why? Because when the box vibrates in transit, the plug scuffs against the case; this is visible on the black plastic, but not on the white.”

Raspberry Pi power supply with scuff marks

Raspberry Pi power supply with scuff mark

“So for now, if you want to eliminate single-use plastic, buy a white supply. In the meantime, we’ll be working to find a way (probably involving cunning origami) to eliminate plastic from the black supply.”

What do you think?

Time for you to discuss! I want to hear from you about upgrade culture.

  • When was the last time you upgraded?
  • What were your reasons at the time?
  • Do you think upgrade culture should be addressed by mobile phone manufacturers and providers, or is it caused by our own consumption habits?
  • How might we address upgrade culture? Is it a problem that needs addressing?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

Upgrade culture is one of the topics for which we offer you a discussion forum on our free online course Impact of Technology. For educators, the course also covers how to facilitate classroom discussions about these topics, and a new course run has just begun — sign up today to take part for free!

The Impact of Technology online course is one of many courses developed by us with support from Google.

The post Is upgrade culture out of date? appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Can algorithms be unethical?

Post Syndicated from Mac Bowley original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/can-algorithms-be-unethical/

At Raspberry Pi, we’re interested in all things to do with technology, from building new tools and helping people teach computing, to researching how young people learn to create with technology and thinking about the role tech plays in our lives and society. One of the aspects of technology I myself have been thinking about recently is algorithms.

An illustration of a desktop computer above which 5 icons are shown for privacy, culture, law, environment, and ethics

Technology impacts our lives at the level of privacy, culture, law, environment, and ethics.

All kinds of algorithms — set series of repeatable steps that computers follow to perform a task — are running in the background of our lives. Some we recognise and interact with every day, such as online search engines or navigation systems; others operate unseen and are rarely directly experienced. We let algorithms make decisions that impact our lives in both large and small ways. As such, I think we need to consider the ethics behind them.

We need to talk about ethics

Ethics are rules of conduct that are recognised as acceptable or good by society. It’s easier to discuss the ethics of a specific algorithm than to talk about ethics of algorithms as a whole. Nevertheless, it is important that we have these conversations, especially because people often see computers as ‘magic boxes’: you push a button and something magically comes out of the box, without any possibility of human influence over what that output is. This view puts power solely in the hands of the creators of the computing technology you’re using, and it isn’t guaranteed that these people have your best interests at heart or are motivated to behave ethically when designing the technology.

An icon with the word 'stakeholders' below it

Who creates the algorithms you use, and what are their motivations?

You should be critical of the output algorithms deliver to you, and if you have questions about possible flaws in an algorithm, you should not discount these as mere worries. Such questions could include:

  • Algorithms that make decisions have to use data to inform their choices. Are the data sets they use to make these decisions ethical and reliable?
  • Running an algorithm time and time again means applying the same approach time and time again. When dealing with societal problems, is there a single approach that will work successfully every time?

Below, I give two concrete examples to show where ethics come into the creation and use of algorithms. If you know other examples (or counter-examples, feel free to disagree with me), please share them in the comments.

Algorithms can be biased

Part of the ‘magic box’ mental model is the idea that computers are cold instructions followers that cannot think for themselves — so how can they be biased?

Humans aren’t born biased: we learn biases alongside everything else, as we watch the way our family and other people close to us interact with the world. Algorithms acquire biases in the same way: the developers who create them might inadvertently add their own biases.

An illustration of four people using smartphones

Humans can be biased, and therefore the algorithms they create can be biased too.

An example of this is a gang violence data analysis tool that the Met Police in London launched in 2012. Called the gang matrix, the tool held the personal information of over 300 individuals. 72% of the individuals on the matrix were non-white, and some had never committed a violent crime. In response to this, Amnesty International filed a complaint stating that the makeup of the gang matrix was influenced by police officers disproportionately labelling crimes committed by non-white individuals as gang-related.

Who curates the content we consume?

We live in a content-rich society: there is much, much more online content than one person could possibly take in. Almost every piece of content we consume is selected by algorithms; the music you listen to, the videos you watch, the articles you read, and even the products you buy.

An illustration of a phone screen showing an invented tweet asking where people get their news from

Some of you may have experienced a week in January of 2012 in which you saw a lot of either cute kittens or sad images on Facebook; if so, you may have been involved in a global social experiment that Facebook engineers performed on 600,000 of its users without their consent. Some of these users were shown overwhelmingly positive content, and others overwhelmingly negative content. The Facebook engineers monitored the users’ actions to gage how they responded. Was this experiment ethical?

In order to select content that is attractive to you, content algorithms observe the choices you make and the content you consume. The most effective algorithms give you more of the same content, with slight variation. How does this impact our beliefs and views? How do we broaden our horizons?

Why trust algorithms at all then?

People generally don’t like making decisions; almost everyone knows the discomfort of indecision. In addition, emotions have a huge effect on the decisions humans make moment to moment. Algorithms on the other hand aren’t impacted by emotions, and they can’t be indecisive.

While algorithms are not immune to bias, in general they are way less susceptible to it than humans. And if a bias is identified in an algorithm, an engineer can remove the bias by editing the algorithm or changing the dataset the algorithm uses. The same cannot be said for human biases, which are often deeply ingrained and widespread in society.

An icon showing a phone screen with an internet browser symbol

As is true for all technology, algorithms can create new problems as well as solve existing problems.

That’s why there are more and less appropriate areas for algorithms to operate in. For example, using algorithms in policing is almost always a bad idea, as the data involved is recorded by humans and is very subjective. In objective, data-driven fields, on the other hand, algorithms have been employed very successfully, such as diagnostic algorithms in medicine.

Algorithms in your life

I would love to hear what you think: this conversation requires as many views as possible to be productive. Share your thoughts on the topic in the comments! Here are some more questions to get you thinking:

  • What algorithms do you interact with every day?
  • How large are the decisions you allow algorithms to make?
  • Are there algorithms you absolutely do not trust?
  • What do you think would happen if we let algorithms decide everything?

Feel free to respond to other people’s comments and discuss the points they raise.

The ethics of algorithms is one of the topics for which we offer you a discussion forum on our free online course Impact of Technology. The course also covers how to facilitate classroom discussions about technology — if you’re an educator teaching computing or computer science, it is a great resource for you!

The post Can algorithms be unethical? appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

“17% women in tech is not enough”

Post Syndicated from Janina Ander original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/17-percent-women-in-tech-not-enough/

Technology should be for everyone, but it has to be built by everyone to be for everyone. At Raspberry Pi, we work to empower everyone to become a tech creator and shape our collective digital future, and we hope that our work will help to increase the tech sector’s diversity.

Woman teacher and female students at a computer

Today, part of our team is attending WeAreTheCity’s WeAreTechWomen conference to spread the word about our free programming courses and encourage more women to share their digital skills with the next generation.

I asked Carrie Anne Philbin, our Director of Educator Support, and Vanessa Vallely OBE, Managing Director at WeAreTheCity, about their thoughts on how we can make the tech sector more diverse, and what part role models, education, and professional development play in this.


Photo©John Cassidy The Headshot Guy® http://www.theheadshotguy.co.uk 07768 401009

Vanessa, WeAreTheCity helps organisations foster a strong female workforce, and provides opportunities for women to network and develop their skills. Why do you think it’s important for women and people from minority backgrounds to support each other in the professional world?

Vanessa Vallely: I believe it is important for everyone to support each other. It is important that we work as a collective and collaborate, as at the end of the day we are all trying to achieve the same goal. 17% women in tech [in the UK] is not enough.

“We want more women in tech, and we want them to represent all aspects of society.” – Vanessa Vallely OBE

We cannot be what we cannot see, therefore asking women who are already working in tech to stand up and own their role model status is a great start.

What can individuals do to address the lack of diversity in the tech sector?

Carrie Anne Philbin: Firstly, let’s recognise that we need the tech sector to be more representative of the population of the world. It’s problematic to have a small subsection of society be the controllers of a growing digital world.

Then, we need to be the change we want to see in the industry. Let’s try different avenues and then let’s be open about our challenges and successes.

VV: I believe every woman in the tech sector is a role model to future generations. There are a number of things individuals can do, for example go back to their schools and tell their tech stories, or contribute/write blogs. This doesn’t just raise their profile, it puts their story out there for others to aspire to. I think this is really important, especially if the individual is from a background where role models are less visible. There are lots of different organisations and networks that facilitate individuals getting involved in their school or early career initiatives which has made it easier to get involved and give back.

CAP: As a woman in the computing field, I think it is important that I hold the door open for other women coming through in my wake, and that I highlight where I can, great work by others.

Ever since I realised that my skills and knowledge in computing were useful and allowed me to be creative in a whole new way, I’ve championed computer science as a subject that everyone should experience. Once you’ve created your first computer program or built your first network, you’ll never want to stop.

Carrie Anne, how does your coding session at WATC’s WeAreTechWomen conference today tie into this?

CAP: At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to teach computing well, and about how young people can have great learning experiences so they can become the makers and creators of tomorrow.

“Technology is not a mystery, nor is it hard to learn. I want to dispel this myth for everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, or economic status.” – Carrie Anne Philbin

During my session at WeAreTechWomen, I hope to support attendees to write their first creative python program, based on a project I wrote for Code Club to create a virtual pet. It is my hope that the session will be the spark of inspiration that gets more women and men from diverse backgrounds excited about being creators of technology.

You’ve built a career in tech education as a teacher, YouTuber, and Director at Raspberry Pi. How can beginners get comfortable creating with tech?

CAP: There isn’t anything magical about technology, and once you know this, you can start to explore with confidence, much like our ancestors when they learned that the earth was round and not flat.

“Phrases like ‘I’m not good with technology’ or ‘It’s all too complicated for me’ are reassuring to say in a society where the accepted view is that maths and science are hard, and where this view is reinforced by our media. But it is OK to be a beginner, it is OK to learn something new, and it is OK to play, explore, fail, and succeed on the journey.” – Carrie Anne Philbin

However you like to learn, be it on your own or with others, there is a way that suits you! I’ve always been quite project-minded: I have ideas about things I want to make, and then go and see if I can. This is how I stumbled across the Raspberry Pi in 2012 — it seemed like an accessible and cheap way to make my automation dreams come true. It also wasn’t too bad at randomly generating poems.

Aside from teacher-led instruction or independent exploration, another way is to learn with others in a relaxed and informal setting. If you’re a young person, then clubs like Code Club and CoderDojo are perfect. If you’re an adult, then attending a Raspberry Jam or conferences like WeAreTechWomen can provide a supportive environment.

“By being kinder to ourselves and seeing ourselves as life-long learners, it is easier to overcome insecurity and build confidence.” – Carrie Anne Philbin

A great way to approach new learning is at your own pace, and thanks to technology, we have access to online training courses with great videos, exercises, and discussion — many of these are completely free and let you connect with a community of learners as well.

How do you think educating the next generation about computing will change the makeup of the tech sector?

CAP: We’re in an exciting phase for computing education. The world has woken up to the importance of equipping our young people with the knowledge and skills for an ever increasing digital landscape. This means computer science is gaining more prominence in school curricula and giving all children the opportunity to discover the subject.

“Education can be democratising, and I expect to see the makeup of the tech sector reflect this movement in the next five to twenty years.” – Carrie Anne Philbin

Unlike physics or music, computing is still a relatively young field, so we need to do more research into what is encouraging and what isn’t, particularly when we work with young people in schools or clubs.

We’re still learning how to teach computing, and particularly programming, well to encourage greater diversity, so it’s great to see such a vast Gender Balance in Computing research project underway as part of the National Centre for Computing Education here in England. It’s not too late for schools in England to get involved in this project either…

What can I do today?

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Pulling Raspberry Pi translation data from GitHub

Post Syndicated from Nina Szymor original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/pulling-translation-data-from-github/

What happens when you give two linguists jobs at Raspberry Pi? They start thinking they can do digital making, even though they have zero coding skills! Because if you don’t feel inspired to step out of your comfort zone here — surrounded by all the creativity, making, and technology — then there is no hope you’ll be motivated to do it anywhere else.

two smiling women standing in front of a colourful wall

Maja and Nina, our translation team, and coding beginners

Maja and I support the community of Raspberry Pi translation volunteers, and we wanted to build something to celebrate them and the amazing work they do! Our educational content is already available in 26 languages, with more than 400 translations on our projects website. But our volunteer community is always translating more content, and so off we went, on an ambitious (by our standards!) mission to create a Raspberry Pi–powered translation notification system. This is a Raspberry Pi that pulls GitHub data to display a message on a Sense HAT and play a tune whenever we add fresh translated content to the Raspberry Pi projects website!

Breaking it down

There were three parts to the project: two of them were pretty easy (displaying a message on a Sense HAT and playing a tune), and one more challenging (pulling information about new translated content added to our repositories on GitHub). We worked on each part separately and then put all of the code together.

Two computers and two pastries

Mandatory for coding: baked goods and tea

Displaying a message on Sense HAT and playing a sound

We used the Raspberry Pi projects Getting started with the Sense HAT and GPIO music box to help us with this part of our build.

At first we wanted the Sense HAT to display fireworks, but we soon realised how bad we both are at designing animations, so we moved on to displaying a less creative but still satisfying smiley face, followed by a message saying “Hooray! Another translation!” and another smiley face. LED screen displaying the message 'Another translation!'

We used the sense_hat and time modules, and wrote a function that can be easily used in the main body of the program. You can look at the comments in the code above to see what each line does:

Python code snippet for displaying a message on a Sense HAT

So we could add the fun tune, we learned how to use the Pygame library to play sounds. Using Pygame it’s really simple to create a function that plays a sound: once you have the .wav file in your chosen location, you simply import and initialise the pygame module, create a Sound object, and provide it with the path to your .wav file. You can then play your sound:

Python code snippet for playing a sound

We’ve programmed our translation notification system to play the meow sound three times, using the sleep function to create a one-second break between each sound. Because why would you want one meow if you can have three?

Pulling repository information from GitHub

This was the more challenging part for Maja and me, so we asked for help from experienced programmers, including our colleague Ben Nuttall. We explained what we wanted to do: pull information from our GitHub repositories where all the projects available on the Raspberry Pi projects website are kept, and every time a new language directory is found, to execute the sparkles and meow functions to let us and EVERYONE in the office know that we have new translations! Ben did a bit of research and quickly found the PyGithub library, which enables you to manage your GitHub resources using Python scripts.

Python code snippet for pulling data from GitHub

Check out the comments to see what the code does

The script runs in an infinite loop, checking all repositories in the ‘raspberrypilearning’ organisation for new translations (directories with names in form of xx-XX, eg. fr-CA) every 60 minutes. Any new translation is then printed and preserved in memory. We had some initial issues with the usage of the PyGithub library: calling .get_commits() on an empty repository throws an exception, but the library doesn’t provide any functions to check whether a repo is empty or not. Fortunately, wrapping this logic in a try...except statement solved the problem.

And there we have it: success!

Demo of our Translation Notification System build

Subscribe to our YouTube channel: http://rpf.io/ytsub Help us reach a wider audience by translating our video content: http://rpf.io/yttranslate Buy a Raspberry Pi from one of our Approved Resellers: http://rpf.io/ytproducts Find out more about the #RaspberryPi Foundation: Raspberry Pi http://rpf.io/ytrpi Code Club UK http://rpf.io/ytccuk Code Club International http://rpf.io/ytcci CoderDojo http://rpf.io/ytcd Check out our free online training courses: http://rpf.io/ytfl Find your local Raspberry Jam event: http://rpf.io/ytjam Work through our free online projects: http://rpf.io/ytprojects Do you have a question about your Raspberry Pi?

Our ideas for further development

We’re pretty proud that the whole Raspberry Pi office now hears a meowing cat whenever new translated content is added to our projects website, but we’ve got plans for further development of our translation notification system. Our existing translated educational resources have already been viewed by over 1 million users around the world, and we want anyone interested in the translations our volunteers make possible to be able to track new translated projects as the go live!

One way to do that is to modify the code to tweet or send an email with the name of the newly added translation together with a link to the project and information on the language in which it was added. Alternatively, we could adapt the system to only execute the sparkles and meow functions when a translation in a particular language is added. Then our more than 1000 volunteers, or any learner using our translations, could set up their own Raspberry Pi and Sense HAT to receive notifications of content in the language that interests them, rather than in all languages.

We need your help

Both ideas pose a pretty big challenge for the inexperienced new coders of the Raspberry Pi translation team, so we’d really appreciate any tips you have for helping us get started or for improving our existing system! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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We asked our engineers your Raspberry Pi 4 questions…

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/we-asked-our-engineers-your-raspberry-pi-4-questions/

We collected some of the most common Raspberry Pi 4 questions asked by you, our community, and sat down with Eben Upton, James Adams, and Gordon Hollingworth to get some answers.

Raspberry Pi 4 Q&A

We grilled our engineers with your Raspberry Pi 4 questions Subscribe to our YouTube channel: http://rpf.io/ytsub Help us reach a wider audience by translating our video content: http://rpf.io/yttranslate Buy a Raspberry Pi from one of our Approved Resellers: http://rpf.io/ytproducts Find out more about the #RaspberryPi Foundation: Raspberry Pi http://rpf.io/ytrpi Code Club UK http://rpf.io/ytccuk Code Club International http://rpf.io/ytcci CoderDojo http://rpf.io/ytcd Check out our free online training courses: http://rpf.io/ytfl Find your local Raspberry Jam event: http://rpf.io/ytjam Work through our free online projects: http://rpf.io/ytprojects Do you have a question about your Raspberry Pi?

Do you have more questions about our new board or accessories? Leave them in the comments of our YouTube video, or in the comments below, and we’ll collect some of the most commonly asked questions together for another Q&A session further down the line.

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Snazzy photographs of Raspberry Pis #SnazzyRPi

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/snazzy-photographs-of-raspberry-pis-snazzyrpi/

If you don’t follow Raspberry Pi on Instagram, you really should, for there you will find #SnazzyRPi, a collection of snazzy-looking Raspberry Pi photographs taken by our very own Fiacre Muller.

Do you have a Raspberry Pi 3 A+? What have you built with it? . And how snazzy is this photo from @fiacremuller?! . . . . . #RaspberryPi #3A+ #RaspberryPi3A+ #Computing

4,412 Likes, 90 Comments – Raspberry Pi (@raspberrypifoundation) on Instagram: “Do you have a Raspberry Pi 3 A+? What have you built with it? . And how snazzy is this photo from…”

Here are a few more to whet your appetite. Enjoy.






Join the #SnazzyRPi revolution and share your Raspberry Pi glamour shots on Instagram using #SnazzyRPi

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His Royal Highness the Duke of York visits Raspberry Pi HQ

Post Syndicated from Philip Colligan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/his-royal-highness-duke-of-york-visits/

We welcomed a very special guest to Raspberry Pi HQ today.

Our Patron, His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, visited our central Cambridge HQ to meet our team, learn more about our work, and give his support for our mission to help more young people learn how to create with computers.

Prince Andrew speaking at a lectern

Royalty and Raspberry Pi

Avid readers of this blog will know that this isn’t Raspberry Pi’s first royal encounter. Back in 2014, Raspberry Pi was one of the UK tech startups invited to showcase our product at a reception at Buckingham Palace. At that stage, we had just celebrated the sale of our two millionth credit card–sized computer.

Fast forward to October 2016, when were celebrating the sale of our ten millionth Raspberry Pi computer with a reception at St James Palace and 150 members of our community. By this time, not only was our product flying off the shelves, but the Foundation had merged with Code Club, had expanded its teacher training programmes, and was working with thousands of volunteers to bring computing and digital making to tens of thousands of young people all over the world.

Prince Andrew and a woman watching a computer screen

Both of our trips to the royal palaces were hosted by Prince Andrew, who has long been a passionate advocate for technology businesses and digital skills. On top of his incredible advocacy work, he’s also an entrepreneur and innovator in his own right, founding and funding initiatives such as iDEA and Pitch at the Palace, which make a huge impact on digital skills and technology startups.

We are really very fortunate to have him as our Patron.

Leaps and bounds

Today’s visit was an opportunity to update Prince Andrew on the incredible progress we’ve made towards our mission since that first trip to Buckingham Palace.

We now have over 25 million Raspberry Pi computers in the wild, and people use them in education, in industry, and for their hobbies in an astonishing number of ways. Through our networks of Code Clubs and CoderDojos, we have supported more than a million young people to learn how to create with technology while also developing essential life skills such as teamwork, resilience, and creativity. You can read more about what we’ve achieved in our latest Annual Review.

Prince Andrew speaking to two seated people

We talked with Prince Andrew about our work to support computing in the classroom, including the National Centre for Computing Education in England, and our free online teacher training that is being used by tens of thousands of educators all over the world to develop their skills and confidence.

Prince Andrew shares our determination to encourage more girls to learn about computing and digital making, and we discussed our #realrolemodels campaign to get even more girls involved in Code Clubs and CoderDojos, as well as the groundbreaking gender research project that we’ve launched with support from the UK government.

Dream team

One of our rituals at the Raspberry Pi Foundation is the monthly all-staff meetup. On the third Wednesday of every month, colleagues from all over the world congregate in Cambridge to share news and updates, learn from each other, and plan together (and yes, we have a bit of fun too).

Prince Andrew and three other men watching a computer screen

My favourite part of Prince Andrew’s visit is that he organised it to coincide with the all-staff meetup. He spent most of his time speaking to team members and hearing about the work they do every day to bring our mission to life through creating educational resources, supporting our massive community of volunteers, training teachers, building partnerships, and much more.

In his address to the team, he said:

Raspberry Pi is one of those organisations that I have been absolutely enthralled by because of what you have enabled. The fact that there is this piece of hardware that started this, and that has led to educational work that reaches young people everywhere, is just wonderful.

In the 21st century, every single person in the workplace is going to have to use and interact with some form of digital technology. The fact that you are giving the next generation the opportunity to get hands-on is fantastic.

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An Introduction to C & GUI Programming – the new book from Raspberry Pi Press

Post Syndicated from Simon Long original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/an-introduction-to-c-gui-programming-the-new-book-from-raspberry-pi-press/

The latest book from Raspberry Pi Press, An Introduction to C & GUI Programming, is now available. Author Simon Long explains how it came to be written…

An Introduction to C and GUI programming by Simon Long

Learning C

I remember my first day in a ‘proper’ job very well. I’d just left university, and was delighted to have been taken on by a world-renowned consultancy firm as a software engineer. I was told that most of my work would be in C, which I had never used, so the first order of business was to learn it.

My manager handed me a copy of Kernighan & Ritchie’s The C Programming Language, pointed to a terminal in the corner, said ‘That’s got a compiler. Off you go!’, and left me to it. So, I started reading the book, which is affectionately known to most software engineers as ‘K&R‘.

I didn’t get very far. K&R is basically the specification of the C language. Dennis Ritchie, the eponymous ‘R’, invented C, and while the book he helped write is an excellent reference guide, it is not a great introduction for a beginner. Like most people who know their subject inside out, the authors tend to assume that you know more than you do, so reading the book when you don’t know anything about the language at all is a little frustrating. I do know people who have learned C from K&R, and they have my undying respect!

I ended up learning C on the job as I went along; I looked at other people’s code, hacked stuff together, worked out why things didn’t work, asked for help from my colleagues, made a lot of mistakes, and gradually got the hang of it. I found only one book that was helpful for a beginner: it was called C For Yourself, and was actually one of the manuals for the long-extinct Microsoft QuickC compiler. That book is now impossible to find, so I’ve always had to tell people that the best book for learning C as a beginner is ‘C For Yourself, but you won’t be able to find a copy!’

Writing An Introduction to C & GUI Programming

When I embarked on this project, the editor of The MagPi and I were discussing possible series for the magazine, and we thought about creating a guide to writing GUI applications in C — that’s what I do in my day job at Raspberry Pi, so it seemed a logical place to start. We realised that the reader would need to know C to benefit from the series, and they wouldn’t be able to find a copy of C For Yourself. We decided that I ought to solve that problem first, so I wrote the original beginners’ guide to C series for The MagPi.

(At this point, I should stress that the series is aimed at absolute beginners. I freely admit that I have simplified parts of the language so that the reader does not have to absorb as much in one go. So yes, I do know about returning a success/fail code from a program, but beginners really don’t need to learn about that in the first chapter — especially when many will never need to write a program which does it. That’s why it isn’t explained until Chapter 9.)

An Introduction to C and GUI programming by Simon Long published by Raspberry Pi Press

So, the beginners’ guide to C came first, and I have now got round to writing the second part, which was what I’d planned to write all along. The section on GUIs describes how to write applications using the GTK toolkit, which is used for most of the Raspberry Pi Desktop and its associated applications. GTK is very powerful, and allows you to write rich graphical user interfaces with relatively few lines of code, but it’s not the most intuitive for beginners. (Much like C itself!) The book walks you through the basics of creating a window, putting widgets on it, and making the widgets do useful things, and gets you to the point where you know enough to be able to write an application like the ones I have written for the Raspberry Pi Desktop.

An Introduction to C and GUI programming by Simon Long published by Raspberry Pi Press

It then seemed logical to bring the two parts together in a single volume, so that someone with no experience of C has enough information to go from a standing start to writing useful desktop applications.

I hope that I’ve achieved that and if nothing else, I hope that I’ve written a book which is a bit more approachable for beginners than K&R!

Get An Introduction to C & GUI Programming today!

An Introduction to C & GUI Programming is available today from the Raspberry Pi Press online store, or as a free download here. You can also pick up a copy from the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge, or ask your local bookstore if they have it in stock or can order it in for you.

Alex interjects to state the obvious: Basically, what we’re saying here is that there’s no reason for you not to read Simon’s book. Oh, and it feels really nice too.

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Eight years, 2000 blog posts

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/eight-years-2000-blog-posts/

Today’s a bit of a milestone for us: this is the 2000th post on this blog.

Why does a computer company have a blog? When did it start, who writes it, and where does the content come from? And don’t you have sore fingers? All of these are good questions: I’m here to answer them for you.

The first ever Raspberry Pi blog post

Marital circumstances being what they are, I had a front-row view of everything that was going on at Raspberry Pi, right from the original conversations that kicked the project off in 2009. In 2011, when development was still being done on Eben’s and my kitchen table, we met with sudden and slightly alarming fame when Rory Cellan Jones from the BBC shot a short video of a prototype Raspberry Pi and blogged about it – his post went viral. I was working as a freelance journalist and editor at the time, but realised that we weren’t going to get a better chance to kickstart a community, so I dropped my freelance work and came to work full-time for Raspberry Pi.

Setting up an instantiation of WordPress so we could talk to all Rory’s readers, each of whom decided we’d promised we’d make them a $25 computer, was one of the first orders of business. We could use the WordPress site to announce news, and to run a sort of devlog, which is what became this blog; back then, many of our blog posts were about the development of the original Raspberry Pi.

It was a lovely time to be writing about what we do, because we could be very open about the development process and how we were moving towards launch in a way that sadly, is closed to us today. (If we’d blogged about the development of Raspberry Pi 3 in the detail we’d blogged about Raspberry Pi 1, we’d not only have been handing sensitive and helpful commercial information to the large number of competitor organisations that have sprung up like mushrooms since that original launch; but you’d also all have stopped buying Pi 2 in the run-up, starving us of the revenue we need to do the development work.)

Once Raspberry Pis started making their way into people’s hands in early 2012, I realised there was something else that it was important to share: news about what new users were doing with their Pis. And I will never, ever stop being shocked at the applications of Raspberry Pi that you come up with. Favourites from over the years? The paludarium’s still right up there (no, I didn’t know what a paludarium was either when I found out about it); the cucumber sorter’s brilliant; and the home-brew artificial pancreas blows my mind. I’ve a particular soft spot for musical projects (which I wish you guys would comment on a bit more so I had an excuse to write about more of them).



As we’ve grown, my job has grown too, so I don’t write all the posts here like I used to. I oversee press, communications, marketing and PR for Raspberry Pi Trading now, working with a team of writers, editors, designers, illustrators, photographers, videographers and managers – it’s very different from the days when the office was that kitchen table. Alex Bate, our magisterial Head of Social Media, now writes a lot of what you see on this blog, but it’s always a good day for me when I have time to pitch in and write a post.

I’d forgotten some of the early stuff before looking at 2011’s blog posts to jog my memory as I wrote today’s. What were we thinking when we decided to ship without GPIO pins soldered on? (Happily for the project and for the 25,000,000 Pi owners all over the world in 2019, we changed our minds before we finally launched.) Just how many days in aggregate did I spend stuffing envelopes with stickers at £1 a throw to raise some early funds to get the first PCBs made? (I still have nightmares about the paper cuts.) And every time I think I’m having a bad day, I need to remember that this thing happened, and yet everything was OK again in the end. (The backs of my hands have gone all prickly just thinking about it.) Now I think about it, the Xenon Death Flash happened too. We also survived that.

At the bottom of it all, this blog has always been about community. It’s about sharing what we do, what you do, and making links between people all over the world who have this little machine in common. The work you do telling people about Raspberry Pi, putting it into your own projects, and supporting us by buying the product doesn’t just help us make hardware: every penny we make funds the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s charitable work, helps kids on every continent to learn the skills they need to make their own futures better, and, we think, makes the world a better place. So thank you. As long as you keep reading, we’ll keep writing.

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Make our light-up Raspberry Pi box for #MonthOfMaking

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/light-raspberry-pi-box-monthofmaking/

On Tuesday, Rob at The MagPi magazine tweeted this:

The MagPi magazine on Twitter

Hey @Raspberry_Pi, wanna join us in making some stuff for #MonthOfMaking? Rob has some cosplay to do this week and other plans for the rest of the month…

And we said YES!

At this point in time, Alex was hiding in the Raspberry Pi Foundation makerspace, creating thingamabobs and whatsit with the laser cutter, and an idea came into her mind.

(Is it weird that I’m referring to myself in the third person? It is. I’ll stop.)

The idea started with this:

Raspberry Pi laser cut box #MonthOfMaking

Oddly satisfying, right?

And ended like this:

Raspberry Pi laser cut box #MonthOfMaking

Raspberry Crepe Cake?

With a little bit of this in between:

Raspberry Pi laser cut box #MonthOfMaking

For hiding treasures

And thanks to some cheap battery-powered lights and magnets from Poundland…

#MonthOfMaking

Whosits and whatsits galore

…it lights up too!

Raspberry Pi laser cut box #MonthOfMaking

Photograph taken inside my rucksack for ambience

Make your own

So, do you want to make your own? Of course you do.

Ideally, you need access to a laser cutter, but if you don’t have one, you can just cut out the layers from some thick cardboard using a craft knife.

You’ll need these four files:

Raspberry Pi laser cut box
Raspberry Pi laser cut box
Raspberry Pi laser cut box
Raspberry Pi laser cut box

These are slightly different to the ones I used, so the acrylic should press-fit without the need for the backing frame you see in the image above.

Feel free to resize the files and change the box design to better fit whatever you want to put inside, but remember: making these boxes to sell, or diverging from our brand guidelines when using the Raspberry Pi logo, is against our trademark rules.

#MonthOfMaking

Join Raspberry Pi and The MagPi magazine in the #MonthOfMaking by using the hashtag in your social posts sharing your makes online. And, just as you can see from my light-up box, your make doesn’t have to use any digital technology. Bake a cake, stitch loop art, restore a car — whatever you plan on making this month, make sure we see your creation! Have fun!

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What we are learning about learning

Post Syndicated from Oliver Quinlan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/what-we-are-learning-about-learning/

Across Code Clubs, CoderDojos, Raspberry Jams, and all our other education programmes, we’re working with hundreds of thousands of young people. They are all making different projects and learning different things while they are making. The research team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation does lots of work to help us understand what exactly these young people learn, and how the adults and peers who mentor them share their skills with them.

Coolest Projects International 2018

Senior Research Manager Oliver Quinlan chats to participants at Coolest Projects 2018

We do our research work by:

  • Visiting clubs, Dojos, and events, seeing how they run, and talking to the adults and young people involved
  • Running surveys to get feedback on how people are helping young people learn
  • Testing new approaches and resources with groups of clubs and Dojos to try different ways which might help to engage more young people or help them learn more effectively

Over the last few months, we’ve been running lots of research projects and gained some fascinating insights into how young people are engaging with digital making. As well as using these findings to shape our education work, we also publish what we find, for free, over on our research page.

How do children tackle digital making projects?

We found that making ambitious digital projects is a careful balance between ideas, technology, and skills. Using this new understanding, we will help children and the adults that support them plan a process for exploring open-ended projects.

Coolest Projects USA 2018

Coolest Projects USA 2018

For this piece of research, we interviewed children and young people at last year’s Coolest Projects International and Coolest Projects UK , asking questions about the kinds of projects they made and how they created them. We found that the challenge they face is finding a balance between three things: the ideas and problems they want to address, the technologies they have access to, and their skills. Different children approached their projects in different ways, some starting with the technology they had access to, others starting with an idea or with a problem they wanted to solve.

Achieving big ambitions with the technology you have to hand while also learning the skills you need can be tricky. We’re planning to develop more resources to help young people with this.

Coolest Projects International 2018

Research Assistant Lucia Florianova learns about Rebel Girls at Coolest Projects International 2018

We also found out a lot about the power of seeing other children’s projects, what children learn, and the confidence they develop in presenting their projects at these events. Alongside our analysis, we’ve put together some case studies of the teams we interviewed, so people can read in-depth about their projects and the stories of how they created them.

Who comes to Code Club?

In another research project, we found that Code Clubs in schools are often diverse and cater well for the communities the schools serve; Code Club is not an exclusive club, but something for everyone.

Code Club Athens

Code Clubs are run by volunteers in all sorts of schools, libraries, and other venues across the world; we know a lot about the spaces the clubs take place in and the volunteers who run them, but less about the children who choose to take part. We’ve started to explore this through structured visits to clubs in a sample of schools across the West Midlands in England, interviewing teachers about the groups of children in their club. We knew Code Clubs were reaching schools that cater for a whole range of communities, and the evidence of this project suggests that the children who attend the Code Club in those schools come from a range of backgrounds themselves.

Scouts Raspberry Pi

Photo c/o Dave Bird — thanks, Dave!

We found that in these primary schools, children were motivated to join Code Club more because the club is fun rather than because the children see themselves as people who are programmers. This is partly because adults set up Code Clubs with an emphasis on fun: although children are learning, they are not perceiving Code Club as an academic activity linked with school work. Our project also showed us how Code Clubs fit in with the other after-school clubs in schools, and that children often choose Code Club as part of a menu of after-school clubs.

Raspberry Jam

Visitors to Pi Towers Raspberry Jam get hands-on with coding

In the last few months we’ve also published insights into how Raspberry Pi Certified Educators are using their training in schools, and into how schools are using Raspberry Pi computers. You can find our reports on all of these topics over at our research page.

Thanks to all the volunteers, educators, and young people who are finding time to help us with their research. If you’re involved in any of our education programmes and want to take part in a research project, or if you are doing your own research into computing education and want to start a conversation, then reach out to us via [email protected].

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Staff Picademy and the sacrificial Babbage

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/staff-picademy-and-the-sacrificial-babbage/

Refill the coffee machine, unpack the sacrificial Babbages, and refresh the micro SD cards — it’s staff Picademy time!

Raspberry Pi Staff Picademy

Staff Picademy

Once a year, when one of our all-staff meeting brings together members of the Raspberry Pi team from across the globe, we host staff Picademy at our office. It’s two days of making and breaking where the coding-uninitiated — as well as the more experienced people! — are put through their paces and rewarded with Raspberry Pi Certified Educator status at the end.

Lest we forget the sacrificial Babbages and all they have done in the name of professional development

What is Picademy?

Picademy is our free two-day professional development programme where educators come together to gain knowledge and confidence in digital making and computing. On Day 1, you learn new skills; on Day 2, you put your learning to the test by finding some other participants and creating a project together, from scratch!

Our Picademy events in the United Kingdom and in North America have hosted more than 2000 Raspberry Pi Certified Educators, who have gone on to create after-school coding clubs, makerspaces, school computing labs, and other amazing things to increasethe accessibility of computing and digital making for tens of thousands of young people.

Why do we run staff Picademy?

Because we stand by what we preach: we believe in learning through making, and we want our staff to be able to attend events, volunteer at Picademy, Code Clubs, CoderDojos, and Raspberry Jams, and feel confident in what they say and do.

And also, because Picademy is really fun!

Stuff and things, bits and bobs: staples of any good Picademy

You don’t need to be techy to work at Raspberry Pi: we’re not all engineers. Our staff ranges from educators and web developers to researchers, programme managers, administrators, and accountants. And we think everyone should give coding a shot, so we love getting our staff together to allow them to explore a new skill — and have some fun in the process.

I *think* this has something to do with The MagPi and a Christmas tree?

At our staff Picademy events, we’ve made everything from automated rock bands out of tin foil to timelapse buggies, and it really is a wonderful experience to see people come together and, within two days, take a skillset that may be completely new to them and use it to create a fully working, imaginative project.

Timelapse buggy is a thing is beauty…as is Brian

Your turn

If you’re an educator looking to try something new in your classroom, keep an eye on our channels, because we’ll be announcing dates for Picademy 2019 soon. You will find them on the Picademy page and see them pop up if you follow the #Picademy tag on Twitter. We’ll also announce the dates and locations in our Raspberry Pi LEARN newsletter, so be sure to sign up.

And if you’d like to join the Raspberry Pi team and build something silly and/or amazing at next year’s staff Picademy, we have roles available in the UK, Ireland, and North America.

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Developer Q&A: brand-new online training courses

Post Syndicated from Dan Fisher original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/developer-qa-online-training/

There is always a flurry of activity at the start of the new academic year, and we are getting in on the action: this autumn and winter, we’ll be launching four new online courses! They are completely free and aim to give educators a solid grounding in the concepts and practical applications of computing.

I caught up with course developers Marc, Caitlyn, James, and Martin to find out what they have in store for you.




Dan Fisher: Hi everyone! First off, can you give me a rundown of what your courses are called and what your motivation was for creating them?

Martin O’Hanlon: Sure! So my course is called Programming 101: An Introduction to Python for Educators. We wanted to create an ‘introduction to programming’ course that anyone could follow, ensuring that learners get to understand concepts as well as practice coding. They will leave with a really good understanding of why programming is so useful, and of how it works.

James Robinson: Then, as a follow-up to this and many other beginner online programming courses, we will be releasing Programming 102: Think Like A Computer Scientist. A lot of courses spend time on the syntax and core elements of a language, without much focus on how to plan and construct a program. We feel the skills involved in understanding and breaking down a problem, before representing it in code, are fundamental to computer science. My course is therefore designed to give you the opportunity to explore these problem-solving skills while extending your knowledge of programming.

Marc Scott: My How Computers Work: Demystifying Computation course fills in the gaps in people’s knowledge about these amazing lumps of silicon and plastic. Computers are very abstract machines. Most people understand that computers can run large, complicated programs, but few people understand how computers are able to perform even the simplest of operations like counting or adding two numbers together. How Computers Work shows people how computers use simple components such as transistors to do incredible things.

Caitlyn Merry: My course is called Bringing Data to Life: Data Representation with Digital Media. Data representation is a huge part of the GCSE Computer Science curriculum, and we wanted to present some of the more theoretical parts of the subject in a fun, practical, and engaging way. And data is everywhere — it is such an important topic nowadays, with real-world impact, so we’re making sure the course is also useful for anyone else who wants to learn about data through the lens of creative media.

an animation of a dancing computer screen displaying the words 'hello world'

DF: Awesome! So who are the courses for?

MOH: Programming 101 is for anyone who wants to learn how to program in Python and gain an understanding for the concepts of computer programming.

JR: Programming 102 is for beginners who have already tackled some programming basics and have some experience in writing text-based programs.

CM: Bringing Data to Life is great if you want to understand how computers turn data into digital media: text, sound, video, and images — for example, photos on your smartphone.

MS: And How Computers Work is for anyone who is interested in learning how computers work. [laughter from the group]

DF: Short and to the point as ever, Marc.

MS: Okay, if you want a sensible answer, it would most help Computer Science teachers at secondary or high school level get to grips with the fundamentals and architecture.

DF: And what will they be doing in your courses, in practical terms?

MOH: Programming 101 will show you how to set up your computer for Python programming and then how to create Python programs! You’ll learn about the basic programming concepts of sequencing, selection, and repetition, and about how to use variables, input, output, ifs, lists, loops, functions, and more.

an animation showing how programming variables works

JR: Programming 102 discusses the importance of algorithms and their applications, and shows you how to plan and implement your own algorithms and reflect on their efficiency. Throughout the course, you’ll be using functions to structure your code and make your algorithms more versatile.

MS: In How Computers Work, learners will find out some of the historical origins of computers and programming, how computers work with ones and zeros, how logic gates can be used to perform calculations, and about the basic internals of the CPU, the central processing unit.

CM: In my Bringing Data to Life course, you’ll learn how text, images, and sound data is represented and stored by computers, but you’ll also be doing your own media computation: creating your own code and programs to manipulate existing text, images, and data!

DF: Cool! So what will learners end up taking away from your courses?

MOH: When you have completed the Programming 101 course, you’ll be able to create your own computer programs using Python, educate others in the fundamental concepts of computer programming, and take your learning further to understand more advanced concepts.

JR: After Programming 102, you’ll be able to plan and create structured and versatile programs and make use of more programming concepts including functions and dictionaries.

MS: From my course, you’ll get a solid grounding in how computers actually function, and an appreciation for the underlying simplicity behind complex computing architectures and programs.

an animation of how a relay works

At their core, computers works with simple components, e.g. relays like this.

CM: The take-away from mine will be an understanding of how computers present to you all the media you view on your phone, screens, etc., and you’ll gain some new skills to manipulate and change what you see and hear through computers.

DF: And how much would learners need to know before they start?

MOH: Programming 101 is suitable for complete beginners with no prior knowledge.

MS: The same goes for How Computers Work.

JR: For Programming 102, you’ll need to have already tackled some programming basics and have a little experience of writing text-based programs, but generally speaking, the courses are for beginner-level learners who are looking for a place to start.

CM: You’d just need a basic understanding of Python for Bringing Data to Life. Taking Programming 101 would be enough!

DF: That’s great, folks! Thanks for talking to me.


Programming 101 and How Computers Work will both begin running in October. Sign up for them today by visiting the Raspberry Pi Foundation page on FutureLearn.An animation of a castaway learning to codeProgramming 101 and How Computers Work will both begin running in October. Sign up for them today by visiting the Raspberry Pi Foundation page on FutureLearn.

Programming 102 and Bringing Data to Life will launch this winter. Sign up for our education newsletter Raspberry Pi LEARN to hear from us when they’re out!

Got a question you’d like to ask our online course developers? Post your comment below.

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Guess the weight, win a thing!

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-pi-office-rubber-band-ball/

Today marks the four-year anniversary of Nicola Early joining the Raspberry Pi team. Nicola works as Administrator at Pi Towers and is responsible for so many things that I dare not try to list them all. But among all her tasks, the most important one is the care and maintenance of the office rubber band ball.

Pi Towers Raspberry Pi Rubber Band Ball

The rubber band ball chronicles

Every working day for the last four years, whenever the postman delivers the packs of letters, Nicola has had at least one new rubber band to collect. And so over time, the ball has grown and grown and grown.

Nicola is very protective of the ball, so if you come to her desk in search for a rubber band, you’ll have to withstand her glare as she reluctantly removes one from her expanding collection.

Pi Towers Raspberry Pi Rubber Band Ball

If we are to consider that, in the UK, there are about 261 working days in a year, and Nicola has been working at Pi Towers for four years, it’s fair to estimate the ball consists of at least 1044 bands.

So our question for you is this:

How much does the ball weigh?

Submit your guess in the comments below*, or in the tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram post for this blog, and the closest guess will win a Raspberry Pi T-shirt and, if we can manage it without her noticing, a band from the very ball in question.

Pi Towers Raspberry Pi Rubber Band Ball

To take part, you need to submit your guess in grams by midnight next Monday 17 September. Multiple guesses on the same platform from the same account will be ignored — so behave.

*Members of the Raspberry Pi team may not take part, as there are scales on Nicola’s desk, and I don’t trust any of you.

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Hang out with Raspberry Pi this month in California, New York, and Boston

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-pi-california-new-york-boston/

This month sees two wonderful events where you can meet the Raspberry Pi team, both taking place on the weekend of September 22 and 23 in the USA.

And for more impromptu fun, you can also hang out with our Social Media Editor and fellow Pi enthusiasts on the East Coast on September 24–28.

Coolest Projects North America

In the Discovery Cube Orange County in Santa Ana, California, team members of the Raspberry Pi Foundation North America, CoderDojo, and Code Club will be celebrating the next generation of young makers at Coolest Projects North America.

Coolest Projects is a world-leading showcase that empowers and inspires the next generation of digital creators, innovators, changemakers, and entrepreneurs. This year, for the first time, we are bringing Coolest Projects to North America for a spectacular event!

While project submissions for the event are now closed, you can still get the last FREE tickets to attend this showcase on Sunday, September 23.

To get your free tickets, click here. And for more information on the event, visit the Coolest Projects North America homepage.

World Maker Faire New York

For those on the east side of the continent at World Maker Faire New York, we’ll have representation in the form of Alex, our Social Media Editor.

The East Coast’s largest celebration of invention, creativity, and curiosity showcases the very best of the global Maker Movement. Get immersed in hundreds of projects and multiple stages focused on making for social good, health, technology, electronics, 3D printing & fabrication, food, robotics, art and more!

Alex will be adorned in Raspberry Pi stickers while exploring the cornucopia of incredible projects on show. She’ll be joined by Raspberry Pi’s videographer Brian, and they’ll gather footage of Raspberry Pis being used across the event for videos like this one from last year’s World Maker Faire:

Raspberry Pi Coffee Robot || Mugsy || Maker Faire NY ’17

Labelled ‘the world’s first hackable, customisable, dead simple, robotic coffee maker’, and powered by a Raspberry Pi, Mugsy allows you to take control of every aspect of the coffee-making process: from grind size and water temperature, to brew and bloom time.

So if you’re planning to attend World Maker Faire, either as a registered exhibitor or an attendee showing off your most recent project, we want to know! Share your project in the comments so we can find you at the event.

A week of New York and Boston meetups

Lastly, since she’ll be in New York, Alex will be out and about after MFNY, meeting up with members of the Raspberry Pi community. If you’d be game for a Raspberry Pi-cnic in Central Park, Coffee and Pi in a cafe, or any other semi-impromptu meetup in the city, let us know the best days for you between Monday, September 24 to Thursday, September 27! Alex will organise some fun gatherings in the Big Apple.

You can also join her in Boston, Massachusetts, on Friday, September 28, where Alex will again be looking to meet up with makers and Pi enthusiasts — let us know if you’re game!

This is weird

Does anyone else think it’s weird that I’ve been referring to myself in the third person throughout this post?

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The last 10%: revamping the Raspberry Pi desktop

Post Syndicated from Simon Long original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/magpi-revamping-raspberry-pi-desktop/

Simon Long is a Senior Principal Software Engineer here at Raspberry Pi. He’s responsible for the Raspberry Pi Desktop on both Raspbian and Debian, and his article from The MagPi issue 73 explores the experience of revamping our desktop. Get your copy of The MagPi in stores now, or download it as a free PDF here.

The PIXEL desktop on Raspberry Pi

It was almost exactly four years ago when I was offered the chance to work at Raspberry Pi. I knew all the team very well, but I’d had hardly any involvement with the Pi itself, and wasn’t all that sure what they would want me to do; at that time, I was working as the manager of a software team, with no experience of hardware design. Fortunately, this was when software had started to move up the list of priorities at Raspberry Pi.

The 2014 updated desktop

Eben and I sat down on my first day and played with the vanilla LXDE desktop environment in Raspbian for 15 minutes or so, and he then asked me the fateful question: “So — do you think you can make it better?” With rather more confidence than I felt, I replied: “Of course!” I then spent the next week wondering just how long it was going to take before I was found out to be an impostor and shown the door.

Simon Long Raspberry Pi

Simon Long, Senior Principal Software Impostor

UI experience

To be fair, user interface design was something of which I had a lot of experience — I spent the first ten years of my career designing and implementing the user interfaces for a wide range of products, from mobile phones to medical equipment, so I knew what a good user interface was like. I could even see what changes needed to be made to transform the LXDE environment into one. But I didn’t have a clue how to do it — I’d barely used Linux, never mind programmed for it… As I said above, that was four years ago, and I’ve been hacking the Pi desktop from that day on.

Raspberry Pi desktop circa 2015

Not all the changes I’ve made have been popular with everyone, but I think most people who use the desktop feel it has improved over that time. My one overriding aim has been to try to make the Pi desktop into a product that I actually want to use myself; one that takes the good user interface design principles that we are used to in environments like macOS and Windows — ideas like consistency, attractive fonts and icons, intuitive operation, everything behaving the way you expect without having to read the instructions — and sculpting the interface around them.

Final polish

In my experience, the main difference between the Linux desktop environment and those of its commercial competitors is the last 10%: the polishing you do once everything works. It’s not easy making something that works, and a lot of people, once they have created something and got it working, leave it and move onto creating something else. I’m really not great at creating things from scratch — and have nothing but admiration for those who are — but what I do enjoy doing is adding that last 10%: going from something that works to something that works well and is a pleasure to use. Being at Raspberry Pi means I get to do that every day when I come to work. Every time I see a photo of a Pi running at a Jam, or in a classroom, anywhere in the world, and it’s using my desktop — the thrill from that never goes away.

If you’d like to read more about the evolution of the Raspberry Pi desktop, and Simon’s adventures at Raspberry Pi, you can access the entire back catalogue of his blog posts here.

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New software to get you started with high-altitude ballooning

Post Syndicated from James Robinson original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/pytrack-skygate-hab-software/

Right now, we’re working on an online project pathway to support you with all your high-altitude balloon (HAB) flight activities, whether you run them with students or as a hobby. We’ll release the resources later in the year, but in the meantime we have some exciting new HAB software to share with you!

High altitude ballooning with Pi Zero

Skycademy and early HAB software

Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to conduct several high-altitude balloon (HAB) flights and to help educators who wanted to do HAB projects with learners. In the Foundation’s Skycademy programme, supported by UKHAS members, in particular Dave Akerman, we’ve trained more than 50 teachers to successfully launch near-space missions with their students.

high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi
high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi
Dave Akerman high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi

Whenever I advise people who are planning a HAB mission, I tell them that the separate elements actually aren’t that complicated. The difficulty lies in juggling them all at the same time to successfully launch, track, and recover your balloon.

Over the years, some excellent tools and software packages have been developed to help with HAB launches. Dave Akerman’s Pi In The Sky (PITS) software gave beginners the chance to control their first payloads: you enter your own specs into a configuration file, and the software, written in C, handles the rest. Dave’s Long Range (LoRa) gateway software then tracks the payload, receiving balloon data and plotting the flight’s trajectory on a real-time map.

Dave Akerman high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi

Dave at a Skycademy event

These tools, while useful, present two challenges to the novice HAB enthusiast:

  • Exposing and adapting the workings of the software is challenging for novice learners, given that it is written in C
  • The existing tracking software and tools are fragmented: one application received LoRa signals; another received radioteletype (RTTY) data; photos were received and had to be manually opened elsewhere; and so on

Introducing Pytrack and SkyGate

Making ballooning as accessible as possible is something we’ve been keen to do since we first got involved in 2015. So I’m delighted to reveal that over the past year, we’ve worked with Dave to produce two new applications to support HAB activities!

Pytrack

Pytrack is a Python implementation of Dave’s original PITS software, and it offers several advantages:

  • Learners can create their own tracker in a simpler programming language, rather than simply configuring the existing software
  • The core mechanics of the tracker are exposed for the learner to understand, but complex details are abstracted away
  • Learners can integrate the technology with standard Python libraries and existing projects
  • Pytrack is modular, allowing learners to experiment with underlying radio components

SkyGate

After our last Skycademy event, I started to look for a way to make tracking a payload in flight easier. For Skycademy, we made a hacky tracking box using a Pi, a 7” screen, and a very rough GUI app that I wrote in a hurry lovingly toiled over.

Skygate high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi
Skygate high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi

 

Since then, we have gone on to develop SkyGate, a complete tracking application which runs on a Pi and fits nicely on a 7” screen. It brings together all the tracking functionalities into one intuitive application:

  • Live tunable LoRa reception and decoding
  • Live tunable RTTY reception and decoding (with compatible USB SDR)
  • Image reception and previewing
  • GPS tracking to report your location (when using compatible GPS USB dongle)
  • Data, images, and GPS upload functionality to HabHub tracking site
  • An Overview tab presenting a high-level summary and bearing to payload
  • Full customisation via the Settings tab

You can get involved!

We would love HAB enthusiasts to test and experiment with both Pytrack and SkyGate, and to give us feedback. Your input will really help us to write the full guide that we’ll release later this year.

To get started, install both programmes using your command prompt/terminal.

For your payload, run:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install python3-pytrack

And your receiver, run:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install skygate

Follow this guide to start using Pytrack, and read this overview on SkyGate and what you’ll need for a tracking box. To give us your feedback, please raise issues on the respective GitHub repos: for Pytrack here, and for SkyGate here.

We’ve developed these software packages to make launching and tracking a HAB payload easier and more flexible, and we hope you’ll think we’ve succeeded.

Happy ballooning!

Disclaimer: each country has its own laws regarding HAB launches and radio transmissions in their airspace. Before you attempt to carry out your own HAB flight, you need to ensure you have permission and are complying with all local laws.

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Continued: the answers to your questions for Eben Upton

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/eben-q-a-2/

Last week, we shared the first half of our Q&A with Raspberry Pi Trading CEO and Raspberry Pi creator Eben Upton. Today we follow up with all your other questions, including your expectations for a Raspberry Pi 4, Eben’s dream add-ons, and whether we really could go smaller than the Zero.

Live Q&A with Eben Upton, creator of the Raspberry Pi

Get your questions to us now using #AskRaspberryPi on Twitter

With internet security becoming more necessary, will there be automated versions of VPN on an SD card?

There are already third-party tools which turn your Raspberry Pi into a VPN endpoint. Would we do it ourselves? Like the power button, it’s one of those cases where there are a million things we could do and so it’s more efficient to let the community get on with it.

Just to give a counterexample, while we don’t generally invest in optimising for particular use cases, we did invest a bunch of money into optimising Kodi to run well on Raspberry Pi, because we found that very large numbers of people were using it. So, if we find that we get half a million people a year using a Raspberry Pi as a VPN endpoint, then we’ll probably invest money into optimising it and feature it on the website as we’ve done with Kodi. But I don’t think we’re there today.

Have you ever seen any Pis running and doing important jobs in the wild, and if so, how does it feel?

It’s amazing how often you see them driving displays, for example in radio and TV studios. Of course, it feels great. There’s something wonderful about the geographic spread as well. The Raspberry Pi desktop is quite distinctive, both in its previous incarnation with the grey background and logo, and the current one where we have Greg Annandale’s road picture.

The PIXEL desktop on Raspberry Pi

And so it’s funny when you see it in places. Somebody sent me a video of them teaching in a classroom in rural Pakistan and in the background was Greg’s picture.

Raspberry Pi 4!?!

There will be a Raspberry Pi 4, obviously. We get asked about it a lot. I’m sticking to the guidance that I gave people that they shouldn’t expect to see a Raspberry Pi 4 this year. To some extent, the opportunity to do the 3B+ was a surprise: we were surprised that we’ve been able to get 200MHz more clock speed, triple the wireless and wired throughput, and better thermals, and still stick to the $35 price point.

We’re up against the wall from a silicon perspective; we’re at the end of what you can do with the 40nm process. It’s not that you couldn’t clock the processor faster, or put a larger processor which can execute more instructions per clock in there, it’s simply about the energy consumption and the fact that you can’t dissipate the heat. So we’ve got to go to a smaller process node and that’s an order of magnitude more challenging from an engineering perspective. There’s more effort, more risk, more cost, and all of those things are challenging.

With 3B+ out of the way, we’re going to start looking at this now. For the first six months or so we’re going to be figuring out exactly what people want from a Raspberry Pi 4. We’re listening to people’s comments about what they’d like to see in a new Raspberry Pi, and I’m hoping by early autumn we should have an idea of what we want to put in it and a strategy for how we might achieve that.

Could you go smaller than the Zero?

The challenge with Zero as that we’re periphery-limited. If you run your hand around the unit, there is no edge of that board that doesn’t have something there. So the question is: “If you want to go smaller than Zero, what feature are you willing to throw out?”

It’s a single-sided board, so you could certainly halve the PCB area if you fold the circuitry and use both sides, though you’d have to lose something. You could give up some GPIO and go back to 26 pins like the first Raspberry Pi. You could give up the camera connector, you could go to micro HDMI from mini HDMI. You could remove the SD card and just do USB boot. I’m inventing a product live on air! But really, you could get down to two thirds and lose a bunch of GPIO – it’s hard to imagine you could get to half the size.

What’s the one feature that you wish you could outfit on the Raspberry Pi that isn’t cost effective at this time? Your dream feature.

Well, more memory. There are obviously technical reasons why we don’t have more memory on there, but there are also market reasons. People ask “why doesn’t the Raspberry Pi have more memory?”, and my response is typically “go and Google ‘DRAM price’”. We’re used to the price of memory going down. And currently, we’re going through a phase where this has turned around and memory is getting more expensive again.

Machine learning would be interesting. There are machine learning accelerators which would be interesting to put on a piece of hardware. But again, they are not going to be used by everyone, so according to our method of pricing what we might add to a board, machine learning gets treated like a $50 chip. But that would be lovely to do.

Which citizen science projects using the Pi have most caught your attention?

I like the wildlife camera projects. We live out in the countryside in a little village, and we’re conscious of being surrounded by nature but we don’t see a lot of it on a day-to-day basis. So I like the nature cam projects, though, to my everlasting shame, I haven’t set one up yet. There’s a range of them, from very professional products to people taking a Raspberry Pi and a camera and putting them in a plastic box. So those are good fun.

Raspberry Shake seismometer

The Raspberry Shake seismometer

And there’s Meteor Pi from the Cambridge Science Centre, that’s a lot of fun. And the seismometer Raspberry Shake – that sort of thing is really nice. We missed the recent South Wales earthquake; perhaps we should set one up at our Californian office.

How does it feel to go to bed every day knowing you’ve changed the world for the better in such a massive way?

What feels really good is that when we started this in 2006 nobody else was talking about it, but now we’re part of a very broad movement.

We were in a really bad way: we’d seen a collapse in the number of applicants applying to study Computer Science at Cambridge and elsewhere. In our view, this reflected a move away from seeing technology as ‘a thing you do’ to seeing it as a ‘thing that you have done to you’. It is problematic from the point of view of the economy, industry, and academia, but most importantly it damages the life prospects of individual children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The great thing about STEM subjects is that you can’t fake being good at them. There are a lot of industries where your Dad can get you a job based on who he knows and then you can kind of muddle along. But if your dad gets you a job building bridges and you suck at it, after the first or second bridge falls down, then you probably aren’t going to be building bridges anymore. So access to STEM education can be a great driver of social mobility.

By the time we were launching the Raspberry Pi in 2012, there was this wonderful movement going on. Code Club, for example, and CoderDojo came along. Lots of different ways of trying to solve the same problem. What feels really, really good is that we’ve been able to do this as part of an enormous community. And some parts of that community became part of the Raspberry Pi Foundation – we merged with Code Club, we merged with CoderDojo, and we continue to work alongside a lot of these other organisations. So in the two seconds it takes me to fall asleep after my face hits the pillow, that’s what I think about.

We’re currently advertising a Programme Manager role in New Delhi, India. Did you ever think that Raspberry Pi would be advertising a role like this when you were bringing together the Foundation?

No, I didn’t.

But if you told me we were going to be hiring somewhere, India probably would have been top of my list because there’s a massive IT industry in India. When we think about our interaction with emerging markets, India, in a lot of ways, is the poster child for how we would like it to work. There have already been some wonderful deployments of Raspberry Pi, for example in Kerala, without our direct involvement. And we think we’ve got something that’s useful for the Indian market. We have a product, we have clubs, we have teacher training. And we have a body of experience in how to teach people, so we have a physical commercial product as well as a charitable offering that we think are a good fit.

It’s going to be massive.

What is your favourite BBC type-in listing?

There was a game called Codename: Druid. There is a famous game called Codename: Droid which was the sequel to Stryker’s Run, which was an awesome, awesome game. And there was a type-in game called Codename: Druid, which was at the bottom end of what you would consider a commercial game.

codename druid

And I remember typing that in. And what was really cool about it was that the next month, the guy who wrote it did another article that talks about the memory map and which operating system functions used which bits of memory. So if you weren’t going to do disc access, which bits of memory could you trample on and know the operating system would survive.

babbage versus bugs Raspberry Pi annual

See the full listing for Babbage versus Bugs in the Raspberry Pi 2018 Annual

I still like type-in listings. The Raspberry Pi 2018 Annual has a type-in listing that I wrote for a Babbage versus Bugs game. I will say that’s not the last type-in listing you will see from me in the next twelve months. And if you download the PDF, you could probably copy and paste it into your favourite text editor to save yourself some time.

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The answers to your questions for Eben Upton

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/eben-q-a-1/

Before Easter, we asked you to tell us your questions for a live Q & A with Raspberry Pi Trading CEO and Raspberry Pi creator Eben Upton. The variety of questions and comments you sent was wonderful, and while we couldn’t get to them all, we picked a handful of the most common to grill him on.

You can watch the video below — though due to this being the first pancake of our live Q&A videos, the sound is a bit iffy — or read Eben’s answers to the first five questions today. We’ll follow up with the rest in the next few weeks!

Live Q&A with Eben Upton, creator of the Raspberry Pi

Get your questions to us now using #AskRaspberryPi on Twitter

Any plans for 64-bit Raspbian?

Raspbian is effectively 32-bit Debian built for the ARMv6 instruction-set architecture supported by the ARM11 processor in the first-generation Raspberry Pi. So maybe the question should be: “Would we release a version of our operating environment that was built on top of 64-bit ARM Debian?”

And the answer is: “Not yet.”

When we released the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, we released an operating system image on the same day; the wonderful thing about that image is that it runs on every Raspberry Pi ever made. It even runs on the alpha boards from way back in 2011.

That deep backwards compatibility is really important for us, in large part because we don’t want to orphan our customers. If someone spent $35 on an older-model Raspberry Pi five or six years ago, they still spent $35, so it would be wrong for us to throw them under the bus.

So, if we were going to do a 64-bit version, we’d want to keep doing the 32-bit version, and then that would mean our efforts would be split across the two versions; and remember, we’re still a very small engineering team. Never say never, but it would be a big step for us.

For people wanting a 64-bit operating system, there are plenty of good third-party images out there, including SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Given that the 3B+ includes 5GHz wireless and Power over Ethernet (PoE) support, why would manufacturers continue to use the Compute Module?

It’s a form-factor thing.

Very large numbers of people are using the bigger product in an industrial context, and it’s well engineered for that: it has module certification, wireless on board, and now PoE support. But there are use cases that can’t accommodate this form factor. For example, NEC displays: we’ve had this great relationship with NEC for a couple of years now where a lot of their displays have a socket in the back that you can put a Compute Module into. That wouldn’t work with the 3B+ form factor.

Back of an NEC display with a Raspberry Pi Compute Module slotted in.

An NEC display with a Raspberry Pi Compute Module

What are some industrial uses/products Raspberry is used with?

The NEC displays are a good example of the broader trend of using Raspberry Pi in digital signage.

A Raspberry Pi running the wait time signage at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios.
Image c/o thelonelyredditor1

If you see a monitor at a station, or an airport, or a recording studio, and you look behind it, it’s amazing how often you’ll find a Raspberry Pi sitting there. The original Raspberry Pi was particularly strong for multimedia use cases, so we saw uptake in signage very early on.

An array of many Raspberry Pis

Los Alamos Raspberry Pi supercomputer

Another great example is the Los Alamos National Laboratory building supercomputers out of Raspberry Pis. Many high-end supercomputers now are built using white-box hardware — just regular PCs connected together using some networking fabric — and a collection of Raspberry Pi units can serve as a scale model of that. The Raspberry Pi has less processing power, less memory, and less networking bandwidth than the PC, but it has a balanced amount of each. So if you don’t want to let your apprentice supercomputer engineers loose on your expensive supercomputer, a cluster of Raspberry Pis is a good alternative.

Why is there no power button on the Raspberry Pi?

“Once you start, where do you stop?” is a question we ask ourselves a lot.

There are a whole bunch of useful things that we haven’t included in the Raspberry Pi by default. We don’t have a power button, we don’t have a real-time clock, and we don’t have an analogue-to-digital converter — those are probably the three most common requests. And the issue with them is that they each cost a bit of money, they’re each only useful to a minority of users, and even that minority often can’t agree on exactly what they want. Some people would like a power button that is literally a physical analogue switch between the 5V input and the rest of the board, while others would like something a bit more like a PC power button, which is partway between a physical switch and a ‘shutdown’ button. There’s no consensus about what sort of power button we should add.

So the answer is: accessories. By leaving a feature off the board, we’re not taxing the majority of people who don’t want the feature. And of course, we create an opportunity for other companies in the ecosystem to create and sell accessories to those people who do want them.

Adafruit Push-button Power Switch Breakout Raspberry Pi

The Adafruit Push-button Power Switch Breakout is one of many accessories that fill in the gaps for makers.

We have this neat way of figuring out what features to include by default: we divide through the fraction of people who want it. If you have a 20 cent component that’s going to be used by a fifth of people, we treat that as if it’s a $1 component. And it has to fight its way against the $1 components that will be used by almost everybody.

Do you think that Raspberry Pi is the future of the Internet of Things?

Absolutely, Raspberry Pi is the future of the Internet of Things!

In practice, most of the viable early IoT use cases are in the commercial and industrial spaces rather than the consumer space. Maybe in ten years’ time, IoT will be about putting 10-cent chips into light switches, but right now there’s so much money to be saved by putting automation into factories that you don’t need 10-cent components to address the market. Last year, roughly 2 million $35 Raspberry Pi units went into commercial and industrial applications, and many of those are what you’d call IoT applications.

So I think we’re the future of a particular slice of IoT. And we have ten years to get our price point down to 10 cents 🙂

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