Here at Pi Towers, we have a love/hate relationship with the Star Wars creatures known as Porgs. Love, because anything cute and annoying will instantly get our attention; hate, primarily because of this GIF:
So when hackster.io tweeted about the following project, you can imagine the unfiltered excitement and fear with which I shared the link in the comms team Slack channel.
It looked a little something like this:
Google AIY Projects Kit
When we announced the Google AIY Projects Kit as a freebie included in issue 57 of The MagPi, I don’t think we realised how well it would do. OK, no, we knew it would do well. After we gave away a free $5 computer on the front cover of issue 40, we knew giving tech away with The MagPi would always do well. But the wave of projects and applications that started on the day of the release was a wonderful surprise, as community members across the world immediately began to implement voice control in their builds.
And now, twenty months later, we’re still seeing some wonderful applications of the kit, including this glorious Porg project.
Learn Spanish with a Porg — because of course
Hackster.io user Paul Trebilcox-Ruiz shared his Translation Toy project on the site yesterday, providing a step-by-step guide to hacking the motors of the Star Wars Porg toy so that it moves in time with verbal responses from the AIY kit. It’s all rather nifty, and apart from a Raspberry Pi you only need some wires and a soldering iron to complete the project yourself.
…some wires, a soldering iron, and the cold-heartedness to pull apart the innards of a stuffed toy, Paul, you monster!
As soon as Paul realised that the Porg’s motors would run if he simply applied voltage, he extended the wires inside the Porg with the help of jumper leads and so attached the Porg to the GPIO pins on his Raspberry Pi.
For this setup, I hooked the two speaker wires from the Porg into the speaker connectors on the HAT, the button wires into the GPIO pin 24 and ground connectors under the ‘Servos’ heading, and for the motors I needed to hook up a relay for a 5V connection driven by the signal off of GPIO pin 26. The microphone that came with the AIY Voice Projects Kit was attached to the board using the pre-defined mic connector.
Then Paul wrote code that uses the AIY kit to translate any voice command it hears into Spanish.
Porgs are now part of the Star Wars universe for better or worse thanks to director Rian Johnson. How do you feel about the tasty critters? Thanks for watching
Porgs were introduced into the Star Wars universe as a means of hiding the many puffins that traipse the landscape of Skellig Michael, the location used for filming Luke Skywalker’s home, Ahch-To. Bless you.
A group of Porgs is called a murder.
A baby Porg is called a Porglet.
And no, you can’t get a physical copy of The MagPi issue 40 or issue 57. They’re gone now. Done. Forever. But you can still download the PDFs.
It’s a public holiday here today (yes, again). So, while we indulge in the traditional pastime of barbecuing stuff (ourselves, mainly), here’s a little trove of Pi projects that cater for our various furry friends.
Nicole Horward created Project Floofball for her hamster, Harold. It’s an IoT hamster wheel that uses a Raspberry Pi and a magnetic door sensor to log how far Harold runs.
JaganK3 used to work long hours that meant he couldn’t be there to feed his dog on time. He found that he couldn’t buy an automated feeder in India without paying a lot to import one, so he made one himself. It uses a Raspberry Pi to control a motor that turns a dispensing valve in a hopper full of dry food, giving his dog a portion of food at set times.
He also added a web cam for live video streaming, because he could. Find out more in JaganK3’s Instructable for his pet feeder.
Shark laser cat toy
Sam Storino, meanwhile, is using a Raspberry Pi to control a laser-pointer cat toy with a goshdarned SHARK (which is kind of what I’d expect from the guy who made the steampunk-looking cat feeder a few weeks ago). The idea is to keep his cats interested and active within the confines of a compact city apartment.
All of these makers are generous in acknowledging the tutorials and build logs that helped them with their projects. It’s lovely to see the Raspberry Pi and maker community working like this, and I bet their projects will inspire others too.
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m late for a barbecue.
HackSpace magazine is back with our brand-new issue 6, available for you on shop shelves, in your inbox, and on our website right now.
Inside Hackspace magazine 6
Paper is probably the first thing you ever used for making, and for good reason: in no other medium can you iterate through 20 designs at the cost of only a few pennies. We’ve roped in Rob Ives to show us how to make a barking paper dog with moveable parts and a cam mechanism. Even better, the magazine includes this free paper automaton for you to make yourself. That’s right: free!
At the other end of the scale, there’s the forge, where heat, light, and noise combine to create immutable steel. We speak to Alec Steele, YouTuber, blacksmith, and philosopher, about his amazingly beautiful Damascus steel creations, and about why there’s no difference between grinding a knife and blowing holes in a mountain to build a road through it.
Do it yourself
You’ve heard of reading glasses — how about glasses that read for you? Using a camera, optical character recognition software, and a text-to-speech engine (and of course a Raspberry Pi to hold it all together), reader Andrew Lewis has hacked together his own system to help deal with age-related macular degeneration.
It’s the definition of hacking: here’s a problem, there’s no solution in the shops, so you go and build it yourself!
60 years ago, the cutting edge of home hacking was the transistor radio. Before the internet was dreamt of, the transistor radio made the world smaller and brought people together. Nowadays, the components you need to build a radio are cheap and easily available, so if you’re in any way electronically inclined, building a radio is an ideal excuse to dust off your soldering iron.
If you’re a 12-month subscriber (if you’re not, you really should be), you’ve no doubt been thinking of all sorts of things to do with the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express we gave you for free. How about a sewable circuit for a canvas bag? Use the accelerometer to detect patterns of movement — walking, for example — and flash a series of lights in response. It’s clever, fun, and an easy way to add some programmable fun to your shopping trips.
We’re also making gin, hacking a children’s toy car to unlock more features, and getting started with robot sumo to fill the void left by the cancellation of Robot Wars.
All this, plus an 11-metre tall mechanical miner, in HackSpace magazine issue 6 — subscribe here from just £4 an issue or get the PDF version for free. You can also find HackSpace magazine in WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and independent newsagents in the UK. If you live in the US, check out your local Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center next week. We’re also shipping to stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil, so be sure to ask your local newsagent whether they’ll be getting HackSpace magazine.
“It’s great to eat hotaruika around when the seasons change, which is when people tend to get sick,” said Ryoji Tanaka, an executive at the Toyama prefectural federation of fishing cooperatives. “In addition to popular cooking methods, such as boiling them in salted water, you can also add them to pasta or pizza.”
Now there is a new addition: eating hotaruika raw as sashimi. However, due to reports that parasites have been found in their internal organs, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry recommends eating the squid after its internal organs have been removed, or after it has been frozen for at least four days at minus 30 C or lower.
As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.
The data center keeps growing, with well over 500 Petabytes of data under management we needed more systems administrators to help us keep track of all the systems as our operation expands. Our latest systems administrator is Billy! Let’s learn a bit more about him shall we?
What is your Backblaze Title?
Sr. Systems Administrator
Where are you originally from?
What attracted you to Backblaze?
I’ve read the hard drive articles that were published and was excited to be a part of the company that took the time to do that kind of analysis and share it with the world.
What do you expect to learn while being at Backblaze?
I expect that I’ll learn about the problems that arise from a larger scale operation and how to solve them. I’m very curious to find out what they are.
Where else have you worked?
I’ve worked for the MIT Math Dept, Google, a social network owned by AOL called Bebo, Evernote, a contractor recommendation site owned by The Home Depot called RedBeacon, and a few others that weren’t as interesting.
Where did you go to school?
I started college at The Cooper Union, discovered that Electrical Engineering wasn’t my thing, then graduated from the Computer Science program at Northeastern.
What’s your dream job?
Is couch potato a job? I like to solve puzzles and play with toys, which is why I really enjoy being a sysadmin. My dream job is to do pretty much what I do now, but not have to participate in on-call.
Favorite place you’ve traveled?
We did a 2 week tour through Europe on our honeymoon. I’d go back to any place there.
Reading and listening to music. I spent a stupid amount of money on a stereo, so I make sure it gets plenty of use. I spent much less money on my library card, but I try to utilize it quite a bit as well.
Of what achievement are you most proud?
I designed a built a set of shelves for the closet in my kids’ room. Built with hand tools. The only electricity I used was the lights to see what I was doing.
Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Coke or Pepsi?
Pesto. Usually on angel hair, but it also works well on bread, or steak, or a spoon.
Why do you like certain things?
I like things that are a little outside the norm, like musical covers and mashups, or things that look like 1 thing but are really something else. Secret compartments are also fun.
Anything else you’d like you’d like to tell us?
I’m full of anecdotes and lines from songs and movies and tv shows.
Pesto is delicious! Welcome to the systems administrator team Billy, we’ll keep the fridge stocked with Coke for you!
There’s a new issue of HackSpace magazine on the shelves today, and as usual it’s full of things to make and do!
We love making hardware, and we’d also love to turn this hobby into a way to make a living. So in the hope of picking up a few tips, we spoke to the woman behind Adafruit: Limor Fried, aka Ladyada.
Adafruit has played a massive part in bringing the maker movement into homes and schools, so we’re chuffed to have Limor’s words of wisdom in the magazine.
Raspberry Pi 3B+
As you may have heard, there’s a new Pi in town, and that can only mean one thing for HackSpace magazine: let’s test it to its limits!
The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ is faster, better, and stronger, but what does that mean in practical terms for your projects?
Kids are amazing! Their curious minds, untouched by mundane adulthood, come up with crazy stuff that no sensible grown-up would think to build. No sensible grown-up, that is, apart from the engineers behind Kids Invent Stuff, the brilliant YouTube channel that takes children’s inventions and makes them real.
Kids Invent Stuff is the YouTube channel where kids’ invention ideas get made into real working inventions. Learn more about Kids Invent Stuff at www.kidsinventstuff.com Have you seen Connor’s Crazy Car invention? https://youtu.be/4_sF6ZFNzrg Have you seen our Flamethrowing piano?
We spoke to Ruth Amos, entrepreneur, engineer, and one half of the Kids Invent Stuff team.
It shouldn’t just be kids who get to play with fun stuff! This month, in the name of research, we’ve brought a Stirling engine–powered buggy from Shenzhen.
This ingenious mechanical engine is the closest you’ll get to owning a home-brew steam engine without running the risk of having a boiler explode in your face.
In this issue, turn a Dremel multitool into a workbench saw with some wood, perspex, and a bit of laser cutting; make a Starfleet com-badge and pretend you’re Captain Jean-Luc Picard (shaving your hair off not compulsory); add intelligence to builds the easy way with Node-RED; and get stuck into Cheerlights, one of the world’s biggest IoT project.
All this, plus your ultimate guide to blinkenlights, and the only knot you’ll ever need, in HackSpace magazine issue 5.
Individual copies of HackSpace magazine are available in selected stockists across the UK, including Tesco, WHSmith, and Sainsbury’s. They’ll also be making their way across the globe to USA, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Belgium in the coming weeks, so ask your local retailer whether they’re getting a delivery.
You can also purchase your copy on the Raspberry Pi Press website, and browse our complete collection of other Raspberry Pi publications, such as The MagPi, Hello World, and Raspberry Pi Projects Books.
Sigal is a “simple static gallery generator” with a straightforward
design, a nice feature set, and great themes. It was started as a toy
project, but has nevertheless grown into a sizable and friendly
community. After struggling with
maintenance using half a dozen photo gallery projects along the way,
guest author Antoine Beaupré has found a nice little gem that he would like
to share with LWN readers.
The Ruiz brothers at Adafruit have used Phillip Burgess’s PixieDust code to turn a 64×64 LED Matrix and a Raspberry Pi Zero into an awesome sand toy that refuses to defy the laws of gravity. Here’s how to make your own.
Simulated LED Sand Physics! These LEDs interact with motion and looks like they’re affect by gravity. An Adafruit LED matrix displays the LEDs as little grains of sand which are driven by sampling an accelerometer with Raspberry Pi Zero!
As the latest addition to their online learning system, Adafruit have produced the BIG LED Sand Toy, or as I like to call it, Have you seen this awesome thing Adafuit have made?
Alongside the aforementioned ingredients, the project utilises the Adafruit LIS3DH Triple-Axis Accelerometer. This sensor is packed with features, and it allows the Raspberry Pi to control the virtual sand depending on how the toy is moved.
The Ruiz brothers inserted an SD card loaded with Raspbian Lite into the Raspberry Pi Zero, installed the LED Matrix driver, cloned the Adafruit_PixieDust library, and then just executed the code. They created some preset modes, but once you’re comfortable with the project code, you’ll be able to add your own take on the project.
Accelerometers and Raspberry Pi
This isn’t the first time a Raspberry Pi has met an accelerometer: the two Raspberry Pis aboard the International Space Station for the Astro Pi mission both have accelerometers thanks to their Sense HATs.
Comprised of a bundle of sensors, an LED matrix, and a five-point joystick, the Sense HAT is a great tool for exploring your surroundings with the Raspberry Pi, as well as for using your surroundings to control the Pi. You can find a whole variety of Sense HAT–based projects and tutorials on our website.
And if you’d like to try out the Sense HAT, including its onboard accelerometer, without purchasing one, head over to our online emulator, or use the emulator preinstalled on Raspbian.
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that today is 28 February, which is as close as you’re going to get to our sixth birthday, given that we launched on a leap day. For the last three years, we’ve launched products on or around our birthday: Raspberry Pi 2 in 2015; Raspberry Pi 3 in 2016; and Raspberry Pi Zero W in 2017. But today is a snow day here at Pi Towers, so rather than launching something, we’re taking a photo tour of the last six years of Raspberry Pi products before we don our party hats for the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend this Saturday and Sunday.
Before there was Raspberry Pi, there was the Broadcom BCM2763 ‘micro DB’, designed, as it happens, by our very own Roger Thornton. This was the first thing we demoed as a Raspberry Pi in May 2011, shown here running an ARMv6 build of Ubuntu 9.04.
BCM2763 micro DB
Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi, 2011-style
A few months later, along came the first batch of 50 “alpha boards”, designed for us by Broadcom. I used to have a spreadsheet that told me where in the world each one of these lived. These are the first “real” Raspberry Pis, built around the BCM2835 application processor and LAN9512 USB hub and Ethernet adapter; remarkably, a software image taken from the download page today will still run on them.
Raspberry Pi alpha board
We shot some great demos with this board, including this video of Quake III:
A little something for the weekend: here’s Eben showing the Raspberry Pi running Quake 3, and chatting a bit about the performance of the board. Thanks to Rob Bishop and Dave Emett for getting the demo running.
Pete spent the second half of 2011 turning the alpha board into a shippable product, and just before Christmas we produced the first 20 “beta boards”, 10 of which were sold at auction, raising over £10000 for the Foundation.
Beta boards on parade
Here’s Dom, demoing both the board and his excellent taste in movie trailers:
See http://www.raspberrypi.org/ for more details, FAQ and forum.
Rather to Pete’s surprise, I took his beta board design (with a manually-added polygon in the Gerbers taking the place of Paul Grant’s infamous red wire), and ordered 2000 units from Egoman in China. After a few hiccups, units started to arrive in Cambridge, and on 29 February 2012, Raspberry Pi went on sale for the first time via our partners element14 and RS Components.
The first 2000 Raspberry Pis
The first Raspberry Pi from the first box from the first pallet
We took over 100000 orders on the first day: something of a shock for an organisation that had imagined in its wildest dreams that it might see lifetime sales of 10000 units. Some people who ordered that day had to wait until the summer to finally receive their units.
Even as we struggled to catch up with demand, we were working on ways to improve the design. We quickly replaced the USB polyfuses in the top right-hand corner of the board with zero-ohm links to reduce IR drop. If you have a board with polyfuses, it’s a real limited edition; even more so if it also has Hynix memory. Pete’s “rev 2” design made this change permanent, tweaked the GPIO pin-out, and added one much-requested feature: mounting holes.
Revision 1 versus revision 2
If you look carefully, you’ll notice something else about the revision 2 board: it’s made in the UK. 2012 marked the start of our relationship with the Sony UK Technology Centre in Pencoed, South Wales. In the five years since, they’ve built every product we offer, including more than 12 million “big” Raspberry Pis and more than one million Zeros.
Celebrating 500,000 Welsh units, back when that seemed like a lot
Economies of scale, and the decline in the price of SDRAM, allowed us to double the memory capacity of the Model B to 512MB in the autumn of 2012. And as supply of Model B finally caught up with demand, we were able to launch the Model A, delivering on our original promise of a $25 computer.
A UK-built Raspberry Pi Model A
In 2014, James took all the lessons we’d learned from two-and-a-bit years in the market, and designed the Model B+, and its baby brother the Model A+. The Model B+ established the form factor for all our future products, with a 40-pin extended GPIO connector, four USB ports, and four mounting holes.
The Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ — entering the era of proper product photography with a bang.
While James was working on the Model B+, Broadcom was busy behind the scenes developing a follow-on to the BCM2835 application processor. BCM2836 samples arrived in Cambridge at 18:00 one evening in April 2014 (chips never arrive at 09:00 — it’s always early evening, usually just before a public holiday), and within a few hours Dom had Raspbian, and the usual set of VideoCore multimedia demos, up and running.
We launched Raspberry Pi 2 at the start of 2015, pairing BCM2836 with 1GB of memory. With a quad-core Arm Cortex-A7 clocked at 900MHz, we’d increased performance sixfold, and memory fourfold, in just three years.
Nobody mention the xenon death flash.
And of course, while James was working on Raspberry Pi 2, Broadcom was developing BCM2837, with a quad-core 64-bit Arm Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.2GHz. Raspberry Pi 3 launched barely a year after Raspberry Pi 2, providing a further doubling of performance and, for the first time, wireless LAN and Bluetooth.
All our recent products are just the same board shot from different angles
Zero to hero
Where the PC industry has historically used Moore’s Law to “fill up” a given price point with more performance each year, the original Raspberry Pi used Moore’s law to deliver early-2000s PC performance at a lower price. But with Raspberry Pi 2 and 3, we’d gone back to filling up our original $35 price point. After the launch of Raspberry Pi 2, we started to wonder whether we could pull the same trick again, taking the original Raspberry Pi platform to a radically lower price point.
The result was Raspberry Pi Zero. Priced at just $5, with a 1GHz BCM2835 and 512MB of RAM, it was cheap enough to bundle on the front of The MagPi, making us the first computer magazine to give away a computer as a cover gift.
MagPi issue 40 in all its glory
We followed up with the $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W, launched exactly a year ago. This adds the wireless LAN and Bluetooth functionality from Raspberry Pi 3, using a rather improbable-looking PCB antenna designed by our buddies at Proant in Sweden.
RS Components limited-edition blue Raspberry Pi 1 Model B
Brazilian-market Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
Visible-light Camera Module v2
Learning about injection moulding the hard way
250 pages of content each month, every month
Forward the Foundation
Why does all this matter? Because we’re providing everyone, everywhere, with the chance to own a general-purpose programmable computer for the price of a cup of coffee; because we’re giving people access to tools to let them learn new skills, build businesses, and bring their ideas to life; and because when you buy a Raspberry Pi product, every penny of profit goes to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation in its mission to change the face of computing education.
We’ve had an amazing six years, and they’ve been amazing in large part because of the community that’s grown up alongside us. This weekend, more than 150 Raspberry Jams will take place around the world, comprising the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend.
If you want to know more about the Raspberry Pi community, go ahead and find your nearest Jam on our interactive map — maybe we’ll see you there.
Full integration The complete tutorial can be found here: https://www.instructables.com/id/When-COZMO-the-Robot-Meets-the-Raspberry-Pi/
COZMO is a Python-programmable robot from ANKI that boasts a variety of on-board sensors and a camera, and that can be controlled via an app or via code. To get an idea of how COZMO works, check out this rather excitable video from the wonderful Mayim Bialik.
The COZMO SDK
COZMO’s creators, ANKI, provide a Software Development Kit (SDK) so that users can get the most out of their COZMO. This added functionality is a great opportunity for budding coders to dive into hacking their toys, without the risk of warranty voiding/upsetting parents/not being sure how to put a toy back together again.
By the way, I should point out that this is in no way a sponsored blog post. I just think COZMO is ridiculously cute…because tiny robots are adorable, no matter their intentions.
Marcelo Rovai + Raspberry Pi + COZMO
For his Instructables tutorial, Marcelo connected an Android device running the COZMO app to his Raspberry Pi 3 via USB. Once USB debugging had been enabled on his device, he installed the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) to the Raspberry Pi. Then his Pi was able to recognise the connected Android device, and from there, Marcelo moved on to installing the SDK, including support for COZMO’s camera.
The SDK comes with pre-installed examples, allowing users to try out the possibilities of the kit, such as controlling what COZMO says by editing a Python script.
Hello World The complete tutorial can be found here: https://www.instructables.com/id/When-COZMO-the-Robot-Meets-the-Raspberry-Pi/
Do more with COZMO
Marcelo’s tutorial offers more example code for users of the COZMO SDK, along with the code to run the LED button game featured in the video above, and tips on utilising the SDK to take full advantage of COZMO. Check it out here on Instructables, and visit his website for even more projects.
A year strongly defined by mixed success! Also, a lot of video games.
I ran three game jams, resulting in a total of 157 games existing that may not have otherwise, which is totally mindblowing?!
For GAMESMADEQUICK???, glip and I made NEONPHASE, a short little exploratory platformer. Honestly, I should give myself more credit for this and the rest of the LÖVE games I’ve based on the same codebase — I wove a physics engine (and everything else!) from scratch and it has held up remarkably well for a variety of different uses.
I successfully finished an HD version of Isaac’s Descent using my LÖVE engine, though it doesn’t have anything new over the original and I’ve only released it as a tech demo on Patreon.
For Strawberry Jam (NSFW!) we made fox flux (slightly NSFW!), which felt like a huge milestone: the first game where I made all the art! I mean, not counting Isaac’s Descent, which was for a very limited platform. It’s a pretty arbitrary milestone, yes, but it feels significant. I’ve been working on expanding the game into a longer and slightly less buggy experience, but the art is taking the longest by far. I must’ve spent weeks on player sprites alone.
We then set about working on Bolthaven, a sequel of sorts to NEONPHASE, and got decently far, and then abandond it. Oops.
We then started a cute little PICO-8 game, and forgot about it. Oops.
I was recruited to help with Chaos Composer, a more ambitious game glip started with someone else in Unity. I had to get used to Unity, and we squabbled a bit, but the game is finally about at the point where it’s “playable” and “maps” can be designed? It’s slightly on hold at the moment while we all finish up some other stuff, though.
We made a birthday game for two of our friends whose birthdays were very close together! Only they got to see it.
For Ludum Dare 38, we made Lunar Depot 38, a little “wave shooter” or whatever you call those? The AI is pretty rough, seeing as this was the first time I’d really made enemies and I had 72 hours to figure out how to do it, but I still think it’s pretty fun to play and I love the circular world.
I made Roguelike Simulator as an experiment with making something small and quick with a simple tool, and I had a lot of fun! I definitely want to do more stuff like this in the future.
And now we’re working on a game about Star Anise, my cat’s self-insert, which is looking to have more polish and depth than anything we’ve done so far! We’ve definitely come a long way in a year.
Somewhere along the line, I put out a call for a “potluck” project, where everyone would give me sprites of a given size without knowing what anyone else had contributed, and I would then make a game using only those sprites. Unfortunately, that stalled a few times: I tried using the Phaser JS library, but we didn’t get along; I tried LÖVE, but didn’t know where to go with the game; and then I decided to use this as an experiment with procedural generation, and didn’t get around to it. I still feel bad that everyone did work for me and I didn’t follow through, but I don’t know whether this will ever become a game.
veekun, alas, consumed months of my life. I finally got Sun and Moon loaded, but it took weeks of work since I was basically reinventing all the tooling we’d ever had from scratch, without even having most of that tooling available as a reference. It was worth it in the end, at least: Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon only took a few days to get loaded. But veekun itself is still missing some obvious Sun/Moon features, and the whole site needs an overhaul, and I just don’t know if I want to dedicate that much time to it when I have so much other stuff going on that’s much more interesting to me right now.
I finally turned my blog into more of a website, giving it a neat front page that lists a bunch of stuff I’ve done. I made a release category at last, though I’m still not quite in the habit of using it.
On a whim, I made a set of Eevee mugshots for Doom, which I think is a decent indication of my (pixel) art progress over the year?
I started idchoppers, a Doom parsing and manipulation library written in Rust, though it didn’t get very far and I’ve spent most of the time fighting with Rust because it won’t let me implement all my extremely bad ideas. It can do a couple things, at least, like flip maps very quickly and render maps to SVG.
I did toy around with music a little, but not a lot.
I wrote two short twines for Flora. They’re okay. I’m working on another; I think it’ll be better.
I didn’t do a lot of art overall, at least compared to the two previous years; most of my art effort over the year has gone into fox flux, which requires me to learn a whole lot of things. I did dip my toes into 3D modelling, most notably producing my current Twitter banner as well as this cool Star Anise animation. I wouldn’t mind doing more of that; maybe I’ll even try to make a low-poly pixel-textured 3D game sometime.
I restarted my book with a much better concept, though so far I’ve only written about half a chapter. Argh. I see that the vast majority of the work was done within the span of a single week, which is bad since that means I only worked on it for a week, but good since that means I can actually do a pretty good amount of work in only a week. I also did a lot of squabbling with tooling, which is hopefully mostly out of the way now.
My computer broke? That was an exciting week.
A lot of stuff, but the year as a whole still feels hit or miss. All the time I spent on veekun feels like a black void in the middle of the year, which seems like a good sign that I maybe don’t want to pour even more weeks into it in the near future.
Mostly, I want to do: more games, more art, more writing, more music.
I want to try out some tiny game making tools and make some tiny games with them — partly to get exposure to different things, partly to get more little ideas out into the world regularly, and partly to get more practice at letting myself have ideas. I have a couple tools in mind and I guess I’ll aim at a microgame every two months or so? I’d also like to finish the expanded fox flux by the end of the year, of course, though at the moment I can’t even gauge how long it might take.
I seriously lapsed on drawing last year, largely because fox flux pixel art took me so much time. So I want to draw more, and I want to get much faster at pixel art. It would probably help if I had a more concrete goal for drawing, so I might try to draw some short comics and write a little visual novel or something, which would also force me to aim for consistency.
I want to work on my book more, of course, but I also want to try my hand at a bit more fiction. I’ve had a blast writing dialogue for our games! I just shy away from longer-form writing for some reason — which seems ridiculous when a large part of my audience found me through my blog. I do think I’ve had some sort of breakthrough in the last month or two; I suddenly feel a good bit more confident about writing in general and figuring out what I want to say? One recent post I know I wrote in a single afternoon, which virtually never happens because I keep rewriting and rearranging stuff. Again, a visual novel would be a good excuse to practice writing fiction without getting too bogged down in details.
And, ah, music. I shy heavily away from music, since I have no idea what I’m doing, and also I seem to spend a lot of time fighting with tools. (Surprise.) I tried out SunVox for the first time just a few days ago and have been enjoying it quite a bit for making sound effects, so I might try it for music as well. And once again, visual novel background music is a pretty low-pressure thing to compose for. Hell, visual novels are small games, too, so that checks all the boxes. I guess I’ll go make a visual novel.
As more and more digital home assistants are appearing on the consumer market, it’s not uncommon to see the towering Amazon Echo or sleek Google Home when visiting friends or family. But we, the maker community, are rarely happy unless our tech stands out from the rest. So without further ado, here’s a roundup of some fantastic retrofitted home assistant projects you can recreate and give pride of place in your kitchen, on your bookshelf, or wherever else you’d like to talk to your virtual, disembodied PA.
Turned an 80s Tomy Mr Money into a little Google AIY / Raspberry Pi based assistant.
Matt ‘Circuitbeard’ Brailsford’s Tomy Mr Money Google AIY Assistant is just one of many home-brew home assistants makers have built since the release of APIs for Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Here are some more…
Oh Teddy, how exciting and mysterious you were when I unwrapped you back in the mideighties. With your awkwardly moving lips and twitching eyelids, you were the cream of the crop of robotic toys! How was I to know that during my thirties, you would become augmented with home assistant software and suddenly instil within me a fear unlike any I’d felt before? (Save for my lifelong horror of ET…)
Please watch: “DIY Fidget LED Display – Part 1” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAZIc82Duzk -~-~~-~~~-~~-~- There are tons of virtual assistants out on the market: Siri, Ok Google, Alexa, etc. I had this crazy idea…what if I made the virtual assistant real…kinda. I decided to take an old animatronic teddy bear and hack it so that it ran Amazon Alexa.
Several makers around the world have performed surgery on Teddy to install a Raspberry Pi within his stomach and integrate him with Amazon Alexa Voice or Google’s AIY Projects Voice kit. And because these makers are talented, they’ve also managed to hijack Teddy’s wiring to make his lips move in time with his responses to your commands. Freaky…
Speaking of freaky: check out Zack’s Furlexa — an Amazon Alexa Furby that will haunt your nightmares.
Give old tech new life
Devices that were the height of technology when you purchased them may now be languishing in your attic collecting dust. With new and improved versions of gadgets and gizmos being released almost constantly, it is likely that your household harbours a spare whosit or whatsit which you can dismantle and give a new Raspberry Pi heart and purpose.
Take, for example, Martin Mander’s Google Pi intercom. By gutting and thoroughly cleaning a vintage intercom, Martin fashioned a suitable housing the Google AIY Projects Voice kit to create a new home assistant for his house:
This is a 1986 Radio Shack Intercom that I’ve converted into a Google Home style device using a Raspberry Pi and the Google AIY (Artificial Intelligence Yourself) kit that came free with the MagPi magazine (issue 57). It uses the Google Assistant to answer questions and perform actions, using IFTTT to integrate with smart home accessories and other web services.
Not only does this build look fantastic, it’s also a great conversation starter for any visitors who had a similar device during the eighties.
…and then I’ll put that box inside of another box, and then I’ll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives…
A GIF. A harmless, little GIF…and proof of the comms team’s obsession with The Emperor’s New Groove.
You don’t have to be fancy when it comes to housing your home assistant. And often, especially if you’re working with the smaller people in your household, the results of a simple homespun approach are just as delightful.
Here are Hannah and her dad Tom, explaining how they built a home assistant together and fit it inside an old cigar box:
My 7 year old daughter and I decided to play around with the Raspberry Pi and build ourselves an Amazon Echo (Alexa). The video tells you about what we did and the links below will take you to all the sites we used to get this up and running.
And now it’s your turn! I challenge you all (and also myself) to create a home assistant using the Raspberry Pi. Whether you decide to fit Amazon Alexa inside an old shoebox or Google Home inside your sister’s Barbie, I’d love to see what you create using the free home assistant software available online.
Check out these otherhomeassistants for Raspberry Pi, and keep an eye on our blog to see what I manage to create as part of the challenge.
Tired of pulling names out of a hat for office Secret Santa? Upgrade your festive tradition with a Raspberry Pi, thermal printer, and everybody’s favourite microcomputer mascot, Babbage Bear.
The name’s Santa. Secret Santa.
It’s that time of year again, when the cosiness gets turned up to 11 and everyone starts thinking about jolly fat men, reindeer, toys, and benevolent home invasion. At Raspberry Pi, we’re running a Secret Santa pool: everyone buys a gift for someone else in the office. Obviously, the person you buy for has to be picked in secret and at random, or the whole thing wouldn’t work. With that in mind, I created Secret Santa Babbage to do the somewhat mundane task of choosing gift recipients. This could’ve just been done with some names in a hat, but we’re Raspberry Pi! If we don’t make a Python-based Babbage robot wearing a jaunty hat and programmed to spread Christmas cheer, who will?
Ho ho ho!
Mecha-Babbage Xmas shenanigans
The script the robot runs is pretty basic: a list of names entered as comma-separated strings is shuffled at the press of a GPIO button, then a name is popped off the end and stored as a variable. The name is matched to a photo of the person stored on the Raspberry Pi, and a thermal printer pinched from Alex’s super awesome PastyCam (blog post forthcoming, maybe) prints out the picture and name of the person you will need to shower with gifts at the Christmas party. (Well, OK — with one gift. No more than five quid’s worth. Nothing untoward.) There’s also a redo function, just in case you pick yourself: press another button and the last picked name — still stored as a variable — is appended to the list again, which is shuffled once more, and a new name is popped off the end.
As the build was a bit of a rush job undertaken at the request of our ‘Director of Vibe’ Emily, there are a few things I’d like to improve about this functionality that I didn’t get around to — more on that later. To add some extra holiday spirit to the project at the last minute, I used Pygame to play a WAV file of Santa’s jolly laugh while Babbage chooses a name for you. The file is included in the GitHub repo along with everything else, because ‘tis the season, etc., etc.
Editor’s note: Considering these desk adornments, Mark’s Secret Santa gift-giver has a lot to go on.
Writing the code for Xmas Mecha-Babbage was fairly straightforward, though it uses some tricky bits for managing the thermal printer. You’ll need to install the drivers to make it go, as well as the CUPS package for managing the print hosting. You can find instructions for these things here, thanks to the wonderful Adafruit crew. Also, for reasons I couldn’t fathom, this will all only work on a Pi 2 and not a Pi 3, as there are some compatibility issues with the thermal printer otherwise. (I also tested the script on a Pi Zero W…no dice.)
Building a Christmassy throne
The hardest (well, fiddliest) parts of making the whole build were constructing the throne and wiring the bear. Using MakerCase, Inkscape, a bit of ingenuity, and a laser cutter, I was able to rig up a Christmassy plywood throne which has a hole through the seat so I could run the wires down from Babbage and to the Pi inside. I finished the throne by rubbing a couple of fingers of beeswax into it; as well as making the wood shine just a little bit and protecting it against getting wet, this had the added bonus of making it smell awesome.
Next year’s iteration will be mulled wine–scented.
I next soldered two LEDs to some lengths of wire, and then ran the wires through holes at the top of the throne and down the back along a small channel I had carved with a narrow chisel to connect them to the Pi’s GPIO pins. The green LED will remain on as long as Babbage is running his program, and the red one will light up while he is processing your request. Once the red LED goes off again, the next person can have a go. I also laser-cut a final piece of wood to overlay the back of Babbage’s Xmas throne and cover the wiring a bit.
Creating a Xmas cyborg bear
Taking two 6 mm tactile buttons, I clipped the spiky metal legs off one side of each (the buttons were going into a stuffed christmas toy, after all) and soldered a length of wire to each of the remaining legs. Next, I made a small incision into Babbage with my trusty Swiss army knife (in a place that actually made me cringe a little) and fed the buttons up into his paws. At some point in this process I was standing in the office wrestling with the bear and muttering to myself, which elicited some very strange looks from my colleagues.
One thing to note here is to make sure the wires remain attached at the solder points while you push them up into Babbage’s paws. The first time I tried it, I snapped one of my connections and had to start again. It helped to remove some stuffing like a tunnel and then replace it afterward. Moreover, you can use your fingertip to support the joints as you poke the wire in. Finally, a couple of squirts of hot glue to keep Babbage’s furry cheeks firmly on the seat, and done!
Next year: Game of Thrones–inspired candy cane throne
The Secret Santa Babbage masterpiece
The whole build process was the perfect holiday mix of cheerful and macabre, and while getting the thermal printer to work was a little time-consuming, the finished product definitely raised some smiles around the office and added a bit of interesting digital flavour to a staid office tradition. And it also helped people who are new to the office or from other branches of the Foundation to know for whom they will be buying a gift.
Ready to dispense Christmas cheer!
There are a few ways in which I’ll polish this project before next year, such as having the script write the names to external text files to create a record that will persist in case of a reboot, and maybe having Secret Santa Babbage play you a random Christmas carol when you squeeze his paw instead of just laughing merrily every time. (I also thought about adding electric shocks for those people who are on the naughty list, but HR said no. Bah, humbug!)
Make your own
The code and laser cut plans for the whole build are available here. If you plan to make your own, let us know which stuffed toy you will be turning into a Secret Santa cyborg! And if you’ve been working on any other Christmas-themed Raspberry Pi projects, we’d like to see those too, so tag us on social media to share the festive maker cheer.
One of the technology areas I thoroughly enjoy is the Internet of Things (IoT). Even as a child I used to infuriate my parents by taking apart the toys they would purchase for me to see how they worked and if I could somehow put them back together. It seems somehow I was destined to end up the tough and ever-changing world of technology. Therefore, it’s no wonder that I am really enjoying learning and tinkering with IoT devices and technologies. It combines my love of development and software engineering with my curiosity around circuits, controllers, and other facets of the electrical engineering discipline; even though an electrical engineer I can not claim to be.
Despite all of the information that is collected by the deployment of IoT devices and solutions, I honestly never really thought about the need to analyze, search, and process this data until I came up against a scenario where it became of the utmost importance to be able to search and query through loads of sensory data for an anomaly occurrence. Of course, I understood the importance of analytics for businesses to make accurate decisions and predictions to drive the organization’s direction. But it didn’t occur to me initially, how important it was to make analytics an integral part of my IoT solutions. Well, I learned my lesson just in time because this re:Invent a service is launching to make it easier for anyone to process and analyze IoT messages and device data.
Hello, AWS IoT Analytics! AWS IoT Analytics is a fully managed service of AWS IoT that provides advanced data analysis of data collected from your IoT devices. With the AWS IoT Analytics service, you can process messages, gather and store large amounts of device data, as well as, query your data. Also, the new AWS IoTAnalytics service feature integrates with Amazon Quicksight for visualization of your data and brings the power of machine learning through integration with Jupyter Notebooks.
Benefits of AWS IoT Analytics
Helps with predictive analysis of data by providing access to pre-built analytical functions
Provides ability to visualize analytical output from service
Provides tools to clean up data
Can help identify patterns in the gathered data
Be In the Know: IoT Analytics Concepts
Channel: archives the raw, unprocessed messages and collects data from MQTT topics.
Pipeline: consumes messages from channels and allows message processing.
Activities: perform transformations on your messages including filtering attributes and invoking lambda functions advanced processing.
Data Store: Used as a queryable repository for processed messages. Provide ability to have multiple datastores for messages coming from different devices or locations or filtered by message attributes.
Data Set: Data retrieval view from a data store, can be generated by a recurring schedule.
Getting Started with AWS IoT Analytics
First, I’ll create a channel to receive incoming messages. This channel can be used to ingest data sent to the channel via MQTT or messages directed from the Rules Engine. To create a channel, I’ll select the Channels menu option and then click the Create a channel button.
I’ll name my channel, TaraIoTAnalyticsID and give the Channel a MQTT topic filter of Temperature. To complete the creation of my channel, I will click the Create Channel button.
Now that I have my Channel created, I need to create a Data Store to receive and store the messages received on the Channel from my IoT device. Remember you can set up multiple Data Stores for more complex solution needs, but I’ll just create one Data Store for my example. I’ll select Data Stores from menu panel and click Create a data store.
I’ll name my Data Store, TaraDataStoreID, and once I click the Create the data store button and I would have successfully set up a Data Store to house messages coming from my Channel.
Now that I have my Channel and my Data Store, I will need to connect the two using a Pipeline. I’ll create a simple pipeline that just connects my Channel and Data Store, but you can create a more robust pipeline to process and filter messages by adding Pipeline activities like a Lambda activity.
To create a pipeline, I’ll select the Pipelines menu option and then click the Create a pipeline button.
I will not add an Attribute for this pipeline. So I will click Next button.
As we discussed there are additional pipeline activities that I can add to my pipeline for the processing and transformation of messages but I will keep my first pipeline simple and hit the Next button.
The final step in creating my pipeline is for me to select my previously created Data Store and click Create Pipeline.
All that is left for me to take advantage of the AWS IoT Analytics service is to create an IoT rule that sends data to an AWS IoT Analytics channel. Wow, that was a super easy process to set up analytics for IoT devices.
If I wanted to create a Data Set as a result of queries run against my data for visualization with Amazon Quicksight or integrate with Jupyter Notebooks to perform more advanced analytical functions, I can choose the Analyze menu option to bring up the screens to create data sets and access the Juypter Notebook instances.
As you can see, it was a very simple process to set up the advanced data analysis for AWS IoT. With AWS IoT Analytics, you have the ability to collect, visualize, process, query and store large amounts of data generated from your AWS IoT connected device. Additionally, you can access the AWS IoT Analytics service in a myriad of different ways; the AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI), the AWS IoT API, language-specific AWS SDKs, and AWS IoT Device SDKs.
AWS IoT Analytics is available today for you to dig into the analysis of your IoT data. To learn more about AWS IoT and AWS IoT Analytics go to the AWS IoT Analytics product page and/or the AWS IoT documentation.
fox flux: Cleaned up and committed the “heart get” overlay and worked on some more art for it. Diagnosed a very obscure physics problem, but didn’t come up with a good solution yet; physics is hard! Drew a very good tree trunk to use as a spawn point; also worked on some background foliage, though less successfully. Played with colors a bit. Tried to work out a tileset for underground areas.
music: I wrote like half of a little chiptune song that I actually like so far! I’m now seriously toying with the idea of doing my own music for fox flux. Played a bit with more sound effects, too.
veekun: Finished up Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon! Pokémon sprites, box sprites, item sprites, and the same data as Sun/Moon. I say “finished” but of course plenty of stuff is still missing, alas.
cc: I’m trying to make glip some building blocks so that they can actually start building the game, so I made some breakable blocks. Also wrote a little shader for implementing their parallax background, which involves a bunch of layer modes.
misc: I got a new keyboard. Also I installed umatrix because noscript’s web extension version is half-broken and driving me up the wall. Sorry, noscript.
Huh, that’s not a bad haul, despite a few nights of incredibly bad sleep. Cool.
Day 172 of #3dprint365. #3dprinted Raspberry PI Controlled Maze Thingie Part 3 #3dprint #3dprinter #thingiverse #raspberrypi #pisupply
All non-electronic parts of this build are 3D printed. The marble maze sits atop a motorised structure which moves along two axes thanks to servo motors. Tom controls the movement using gestures which are picked up by the Flick Zero, a Pi Zero–sized 3D-tracking board that can detect movement up to 15cm away.
Find the code for the maze, which takes advantage of the Flick library, on Tom’s GitHub account.
Make your own games
Our free resources are a treasure trove of fun home-brew games that you can build with your friends and family.
If you like physical games such as Tom’s gesture-controlled maze, you should definitely check out our Python quick reaction game! In it, players are pitted against each other to react as quickly as possible to a randomly lighting up LED.
You can also play solo with our Lights out game, where it’s you against four erratic lights eager to remain lit.
For games you can build on your computer with no need for any extra tech, Scratch games such as our button-smashing Olympic weightlifter and Hurdler projects are perfect — you can play them just using a keyboard and browser!
And because I just found this while searching for image content for today’s blog, here is a photo of Eben’s and Liz’s cat Mooncake with a Raspberry Pi on her head. Enjoy!
OK, fine. You’re after something properly frightening. How about the haunted magic mirror by Kapitein Haak, or this one, with added Philips Hue effects, by Ben Eagan. As if your face first thing in the morning wasn’t shocking enough.
If you find those rigid-faced, bow-lipped, plastic dolls more sinister than sweet – and you’re right to do so: they’re horrible – you won’t like this evil toy. Possessed by an unquiet shade, it’s straight out of my nightmares.
Earlier this month we covered Adafruit’s haunted portrait how-to. This build by Dominick Marino takes that concept to new, terrifying, heights.
This recreation of Billy the Puppet from the Saw franchise is Pi-powered, it’s mobile, and it talks. You can remotely control it, and I am not even remotely OK with it. That being said, if you’re keen to have one of your own, be my guest. Just follow the guide on Instructables. It’s your funeral.
Make your Halloween
It’s been a great year for scary Raspberry Pi makes, and we hope you have a blast using your Pi to get into the Halloween spirit.
And speaking of spirits, Matt Reed of RedPepper has created a Pi-based ghost detector! It uses Google’s Speech Neural Network AI to listen for voices in the ether, and it’s live-streaming tonight. Perfect for watching while you’re waiting for the trick-or-treaters to show up.
After making a delightful Bitcoin lottery using a Raspberry Pi, Sean Hodgins brings us more Pi-powered goodness in time for every maker’s favourite holiday: Easter! Just kidding, it’s Halloween. Check out his hair-raising new build, the Haunted Jack in the Box.
This project uses a raspberry pi and face detection using the pi camera to determine when someone is looking at it. Plenty of opportunities to scare people with it. You can make your own!
Imagine yourself wandering around a dimly lit house. Your eyes idly scan a shelf. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a twangy melody! What was that? You take a closer look…there seems to be a box in jolly colours…with a handle that’s spinning by itself?!
You freeze, unable to peel your eyes away, and BAM!, out pops a maniacally grinning clown. You promptly pee yourself. Happy Halloween, courtesy of Sean Hodgins.
Eerie disembodied voice: You’re welco-o-o-ome!
How has Sean built this?
Sean purchased a jack-in-the-box toy and replaced its bottom side with one that would hold the necessary electronic components. He 3D-printed this part, but says you could also just build it by hand.
The bottom of the box houses a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and a servomotor which can turn the windup handle. There’s also a magnetic reed switch which helps the Pi decide when to trigger the Jack. Sean hooked up the components to the Pi’s GPIO pins, and used an elastic band as a drive belt to connect the pulleys on the motor and the handle.
Sean explains that he has used a lot of double-sided tape and superglue in this build. The bottom and top are held together with two screws, because, as he describes it, “the Jack coming out is a little violent.”
But if I explain it, it won’t be scary anymore! OK, fiiiine.
With the help of a a Camera Module and OpenCV, Sean implemented facial recognition: Jack knows when someone is looking at his box, and responds by winding up and popping out.
Testing the haunting script
Sean’s Python script is available here, but as he points out, there are many ways in which you could adapt this code, and the build itself, to be even more frightening.
So very haunted
What would you do with this build? Add creepy laughter? Soundbites from It? Lighting effects? Maybe even infrared light and a NoIR Camera Module, so that you can scare people in total darkness? There are so many possibilities for this project — tell us your idea in the comments.
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