Forget Beanie Babies as McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, or U2’s new album magically appearing on everyone’s iTunes list: the collaboration of the century is here. Estefannie Explains it All answered a call from LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER (aka Sam) who was looking for a coding genius to bring his cryptocurrency-measuring musical machine to life.
Sam wanted to use the up-and-down nature of cryptocurrency value to generate voltages that would power synthesisers and generate sounds. He’s good at music, but middlingly bad at the coding side of things, and so he roped in Estefannie’s smarts to devise a solution.
The Raspberry Pi bit
Estefannie‘s plan involved a Raspberry Pi and some pulse-width modulation signals, which can be filtered down into analogue voltages.
She marked this all out on a breadboard, with ten LEDs connected to Raspberry Pi standing in for ten cryptocurrencies. The Raspberry Pi pins send voltages to the LEDs that correlate with the real-time percentage of change the cryptocurrency values experience.
The music bit
In order to make the monotone output of Estefannie’s creation sound more musical, Sam needed more than one cryptocurrency to be heard at a time, and to be able to alter the chords. So he built ten analogue circuits on perf boards. These slow down the changes in the cryptocurrency values, altering the audio output. And ten separate oscillators allow each board to interact with each other. Sam explains it much better, so check out his build video.
Transatlantic collaboration videos
This is a cool mash-up of a project, with each maker producing brilliant videos focusing on the separate expertise they brought to the build.
If you want to dig deep into the marathon coding session Estefannie performed to create this musical machine, check out her project video:
And if you’re interested in the analog musical side of things, check out Sam’s:
Hour-long cryptocurrency concert
If you actually trade cryptocurrency, this would be a whimsical way to keep an eye ear on market changes. If you don’t trade cryptocurrency and you also don’t have the skills to build something like this, then you can just pretend.
Sam has produced an hour-long ‘performance’ video of the machine doing its thing. So stick it on in the background next time you’re doing busy work at your desk and pretend you’re also a crypto-trading coding artist.
I speak English. Super well. And I can read the rough, overall vibe of writing in French. I can also order beer and taxis in Spanish. Alas, my dog can do none of these things, and we are left in communication limbo. I try asking them (in English) why they’re so mean to that one Cockapoo who lives across the road, or why they don’t understand the importance of the eyedrops the vet insists I have to hold their eyelids open to administer. They just respond with a variety of noises that I cannot translate. We need to fix this, and thankfully NerdStroke has harnessed Raspberry Pi to build a solution.
How does it work?
The dog wears a harness with a microphone that picks up its barks. The barks get processed through a device that determines what the dog is saying and then outputs it through speakers.
Raspberry Pi Zero is the affordable brain powering NerdStroke’s solution to this age-old human-and-pup problem. But writing code that could translate the multitude of frequencies coming out of a dog’s mouth when it barks was a trickier problem. NerdStroke tried to work it through on Twitch with fellow hobbyists, but alas, the original dream had to be modified.
Spoiler alert: fast Fourier transforms did not work. You would need a clear, pure tone for that to work in a project like this, but as we said above, dogs bark in a rainbow of tones, pitches, and all the rest.
So what’s the solution?
Because of this, a time-based model was devised to predict what a dog is likely to be barking about at any given time of day. For example, if it’s early morning, they probably want to go out to pee. But if it’s mid-morning, they’re probably letting you know the postman has arrived and is trying to challenge your territory by pushing thin paper squares through the flap in your front door. It’s a dangerous world out there, and dogs just want to protect us.
Nerdstroke had his good friend record some appropriate soundbites to go with each bark, depending on what time of day it happened. And now, Nugget the dog can tell you “I want to cuddle” or “Why aren’t you feeding me?”
While the final project couldn’t quite translate the actual thoughts of a dog, we love the humour behind this halfway solution. And we reckon the product name, Holler Collar, would definitely sell.
Follow NerdStroke’s future projects
NerdStroke is all over the socials, so follow them on your platform of choice:
Even if you don’t follow Simone Giertz on social media or YouTube, there’s a good chance you know of her work. Originally hailed as the Queen of S***** Robots, Simone’s early videos of questionable contraptions, such as the Toothbrush Machine and Hair Washing Robot, quickly went viral, birthing a variety of GIFs and shareable content that quickly took over the internet. But, nowadays, she’s shelved her bots and focuses her attention on more reliable projects, such as her highly successful crowdfunding campaign for The Every Day Calendar, and the impressive Truckla, a Tesla pickup truck that beat Elon Musk’s Cybertruck to the post when shared online in June 2019.
Alex Bate caught up with Simone Giertz (pronounced Yetch, not Gerts) to discuss how she went from unreliable robots and GIF stardom to bunk-beds made of leaves and office chair sidecars for needy pets, and why her openly discussed brain tumour helped to realign her business model.
A career of two halves
HS To me, as a viewer, it feels like your YouTube career is split into two halves. There’s Simone, the Queen of S***** Robots, and then there’s everything post-surgery, like Truckla and The Every Day Calendar. Do you see it too?
SG The difficult part about YouTube, and also the good side of it, is that if you have a really long career, you grow up during that career, and you change and your interests change. And I don’t want to just play a role, I want to be genuinely excited about the things I do – you get sick of things, and you want to explore new things. So, in order to do that, I’ve really tried to be ‘theme agnostic’ for my YouTube channel.
And that was something that was really hard with S***** Robots, because it was something that I knew that people really liked, and that I had a level of success with. But I was just not that excited about it anymore. And I think the brain tumour became a really good page turner for me, because I had such limited energy capital, you know, and I really just wanted to spend my time and my very limited energy on doing things that I was super-pumped about.
I think the projects I build now still have some elements of the stuff I did in my early days, but they’re definitely less GIF-compatible.
In the beginning, all I was thinking about for every project was a GIF. That was the main deliverable that I had in my head, and the main piece of content that I focused on, and then I kind of built a YouTube video around it, and around the process of creating this GIF. And I let go of that. Not every project needs to have a punchline. It can be fine. It can be a little bit more dull.
But, I still feel guilty about it.
SG Yeah. People are very sweet about it, but I still get comments with people being like, ’Oh, I miss the robots.’ But, at the same time, you have to think, ’It’s my life, and I really want to do the things I want to do.’ And I’m also so drawn to my product business and wanting to focus on that. And the way that my YouTube channel can co-exist with that is for me to explore different products and make videos about them. And it’s actually becoming a pretty good tag team.
HS Talking about your product business, the biggest one to date was obviously The Every Day Calendar. 2300-odd backers, and over half a million dollars raised. How did you feel when your first Kickstarter just soared like that?
SG It was fun and scary. Because, as somebody who’s terrified of disappointing people, crowdfunding campaigns are kind of like the worst position to put yourself in because you really risk disappointing people. But, I don’t think we did. I mean, we were late, but I really just wanted to deliver a good product because it was expensive. And, yes, we raised over half a million dollars, but it’s not until now that we’ve actually broken even.
SG It’s so expensive. And so much of that is in product development. When it comes down to it, and you’re actually putting something out in the world, it’s just crazy how much it costs. And I mean, we probably didn’t do it in the most efficient way we could, because we were rookies. But, it was definitely very humbling and terrifying.
HS Would you do further products with Kickstarter? Or do you think you’re now at a point where you would just create a product and sell it, and not have to rely on crowdfunding?
SG We’re hopefully launching our store this summer, and we’re going to have four different products in it. And, I’m hoping that any easier products can be self-funded. And, if there’s something more complicated, like the Companion Chair, which is definitely going to be a bigger project, it might end up being crowdfunded because with funding, you also get market testing. You can get a lot out of it. But, that said, after I did The Every Day Calendar, I remember saying I’d never do it again. Every night at 3 am, I would just wake up and be like, ’Oh my god, what if we send out the calendars and then, in two years, all of them stop working! People are going to be really angry.’ I’m scared of that. But, I guess that also, even if customers are buying your product off the shelf, you are always going to live with that fear over your head.
The early days
HS It’s really interesting to go back and watch your earliest videos, particularly the first one in Swedish, and see how far you’ve come. Was it always the aim to start the business? To have staff and be opening an online store and selling your products?
SG I mean, no, I would definitely be lying if I said that this is some sort of master plan. There was no scheming where I had the large whiteboard – ’This is the trajectory of how I’m going to become known as the Queen of S***** Robots. And then I’m going to pivot that into running a product business.’ I’m definitely not that smart.
But, I had an inkling of what I was interested in. And I mean, I really liked making videos. And I think that everything kind of happened in a very fortunate way. Because I had this job where I was a Maker in Residence at a US company called Punch Through Design. And my job was just to build different things. And right when my job there was ending, I posted the Toothbrush Helmet, and that started getting some traction. I was moving back to Sweden because my visa expired, and I just had this year of living with my mom again, and having very few expenses and I was like, ’OK, I’m gonna just make sure I work enough to get by, but then the rest of the time, I’m just gonna spend it on building these machines that I want to build.’
So I was very fortunate in the way that I could structure things so I was able to spend time on my YouTube channel in the early days.
But, it’s also so easy to look back and be like, ’Of course, all these things led me to where I am today.’ But when you’re in the middle of it, you’re just flailing. And my flailing, fortunately, landed me in a position that I’m very happy with today.
Commander Scraps the canine sidekick
[It’s at this point of the conversation that Simone’s three-legged canine sidekick, Commander Scraps, decides to join us. Those who have seen Simone’s build video for the Companion Chair or Lego-based Dog Selfie Booth will already know of Scraps. Those who haven’t, well, Scraps is adorable, so you should definitely check them out.]
HS Some online content creators are often stuck within a theme – wood working, electronics, 3D printing, and so on. But, for you, it seems that you’re the theme, you’re the brand, and you can get away with creating whatever content you want. Do you see that when you interact with your community? That freedom?
SG It’s something that I thought a lot about in the early days, like, how much is the channel about me and my life? And how much is it about the things that I build? And I think what I struggled with is that I’m not that interested in my life. Like, I really want to make videos that I myself would want to watch. I’m not really interested in vlogs, so I decided early on that while it’s about my life to an extent, it’s still centred around these projects I’m building.
In some ways, I’m pretty private on the internet, but also very open, like when it comes to brain tumour stuff. I was really open about it, and I wanted to tell everyone about it because it was a way for me to process what was happening. I remember having to tell myself that I had to stop telling waiters or Uber drivers that I had a brain tumour. ’Hi sweetie, how are you today? Well, I have a brain tumour, but other than that, I’m pretty good.’
When it came to talking about it online, it was a no-brainer. Haha.
But then there’s other stuff that I don’t talk about, like, I don’t really document my life. I don’t talk about my friends really, or my relationship status, or anything like that. Because you have to draw the line somewhere. And I always felt like documenting my life was just too intrusive.
HS When you look at your most popular videos on your channel, even though you’re known as the Queen of S***** Robots, those videos aren’t actually in the Top 5. Instead, it’s the video of you in the zero gravity simulations, and Truckla, and locking yourself in your bathroom for 48 hours. It’s interesting that the thing you’re most known for isn’t the thing your audience is most interacting with.
SG Those robot videos mostly did really well on other platforms, like Twitter and Reddit. Not so much on YouTube because it has its own metrics and algorithms.
The thing that is really useful for other creators who are getting started is to figure out what is your hook, or what is the very simple version of what you’re doing. Like, Queen of S***** Robots kind of became the headline. And it was this very clear message, and it was something that was really easy for journalists to write about. It was a spearhead for branding.
This was not something I was thinking about at the time, but looking back, my fear then was to make sure I didn’t get pigeonholed, and that I could never move on from it, because that’s the problem when people only know you for one thing – you can’t really move on beyond that. It’s really nice to have that spearhead, and then you can broaden it, and that’s how you have longevity.
I didn’t want this to be over in a year. I wanted to be able to keep on doing it because I was really enjoying it. And now, I want to make sure that I have more legs to stand on, because when you’re going through health problems, you realise that if you can’t be in front of a camera, everything grinds to a halt. If you’re not well enough to work, or if YouTube changes its algorithm, it becomes such a fragile business structure. So, that was one of the reasons why I decided I needed to go into products.
HS I guess you can’t really be known as the Queen of S***** Robots where everything you make doesn’t really do what it’s meant to do, and then expect people to buy serious products from you and trust they’ll work.
SG That’s definitely one of the things when we launched The Every Day Calendar – I was wondering how are people going to be able to take this seriously? But, I think that’s what’s really nice, that my audience has been around long enough and they’ve seen that there’s more to it than that – there’s actually, ironically, a lot of work that goes into making S***** Robots.
HS I remember the first time I saw your work was when you collaborated with Adam Savage to make an automated popcorn machine in 2016. It’s a great video that really highlights how great collaborative work can be when two people focus on what they’re really interested in to make a final product. And you’ve worked on other videos with creators such as Laura Kampf. Is there anyone else you’d like to work with?
SG I’m really interested in people who are kind of beyond the community that I’m currently in. It would be really fun to do stuff with musical artists; I’d love to collaborate with OK Go. Or venture beyond that and work with people who make art, and fashion designers. People who are outside the world where I’m creating. And there are people that I just love and would always want to work with, like Laura. She’s the sweetest, most talented, down-to-earth and funny person. I really love working with her. I should really think of who’s on my bucket list.
Something I’ve really missed during the pandemic is just getting to spend time with people who are excited about what they’re doing, and having that excitement rub off on me. There’s nothing more inspiring than someone being pumped about something, even if you don’t understand what it is. In some ways, lockdown has been great for creating as I’ve had more time to loiter in the shop, but I definitely miss that input and just being able to talk to people.
Secret new ideas…
HS And are there any projects you’d like to build that you just haven’t gotten around to doing yet?
SG Honestly, I just want to build stuff for my house right now, which I know isn’t the most interesting answer. I still have the CEO Bouncy Chair on my list – I want to make this kids’ bouncy chair, the type where you’re almost in some sort of plastic diaper. But I want it to look like a mahogany desk with a Rolodex and it’s for grown-ups. And make some spoof commercial for it when it’s marketed as an exercise device, but there’s just some balding white guy in it. I think that’s the only one that I’m still eager to build. Let me look at my notes…
[Simone proceeds to pull out her phone and list project ideas from the notes app. Should I tell you what they are or should I leave them as a surprise? With great power comes great responsibility!]
HS Those are definitely some interesting ideas…
[I’m very responsible].
HS Going back to your audience, you seem to have been somewhat spared a lot of the negativity people receive in comments, and online in general. Why do you think that is?
SG I’m just always so scared. Haha. I’ve been spared from the trolls and the hate, and I’m just terrified of ruining whatever equilibrium is happening right now. That’s one of the reasons I post so seldomly. I was looking the other day and thought, ’Oh, it’s been 45 days since I last posted on Instagram!’, and I notice I keep getting DMs from people asking if I’m OK. I’m just always scared to overstep, or do something that would upset people, or cause me to fall from some sort of pedestal. I just never want to post something that doesn’t work for other people, you know?
HS I get it. The comments section of YouTube alone can be an awful place sometimes. Speaking of YouTube, are there any other makers at the moment who are inspiring you?
SG I love 3×3 Custom. She’s my happy place because she’s at a level of making that I’m just not at. Her jig work is just wild, and the quality she puts out. And I love Nicole McLaughlin. She does these really fun and weird fashion contraptions, like shoes made out of tennis balls. She’s very cool. She’s a level of coolness that I aspire to and never expect to get to.
But, one of the most inspiring things for me is time. And I know that if I run out of ideas, it’s because I’m overworked and I haven’t had enough downtime and time to just loiter in the shop. I try to enforce this on Fridays, where me and my teammates just work on whatever project, and it doesn’t have to be work-related. And some of my best ideas have come from that type of work, where I don’t know what my end goal with this is, but I’m just going to tinker with it for a little bit.
Raspberry Pi is at the heart of this AI–powered, automated sorting machine that is capable of recognising and sorting any LEGO brick.
And its maker Daniel West believes it to be the first of its kind in the world!
This mega-machine was two years in the making and is a LEGO creation itself, built from over 10,000 LEGO bricks.
It can sort any LEGO brick you place in its input bucket into one of 18 output buckets, at the rate of one brick every two seconds.
While Daniel was inspired by previous LEGO sorters, his creation is a huge step up from them: it can recognise absolutely every LEGO brick ever created, even bricks it has never seen before. Hence the ‘universal’ in the name ‘universal LEGO sorting machine’.
What makes Daniel’s project a ‘world first’ is that he trained his classifier using 3D model images of LEGO bricks, which is how the machine can classify absolutely any LEGO brick it’s faced with, even if it has never seen it in real life before.
Daniel has made a whole extra video (above) explaining how the AI in this project works. He shouts out all the open source software he used to run the Raspberry Pi Camera Module and access 3D training images etc. at this point in the video.
LEGO brick separation
Daniel needed the input bucket to carefully pick out a single LEGO brick from the mass he chucks in at once.
This is achieved with a primary and secondary belt slowly pushing parts onto a vibration plate. The vibration plate uses a super fast LEGO motor to shake the bricks around so they aren’t sitting on top of each other when they reach the scanner.
Hacking apart a sweet, innocent Raspberry Pi – who would do such a thing? Network Chuck, that’s who. But he has a very cool reason for it so, we’ll let him off the hook.
He’s figured out how to install VMware ESXi on Raspberry Pi, and he’s sharing the step-by-step process with you because he loves you. And us. We think. We hope.
In a nutshell, Chuck hacks apart a Raspberry Pi, turning it into three separate computers, each running different software at the same time. He’s a wizard.
VMware is cool because it’s Virtual Machine software big companies use on huge servers, but you can deploy it on one of our tiny devices and learn how to use it in the comfort of your own home if you follow Chuck’s instructions.
Once that’s all done, stick your USB flash drive into your Raspberry Pi and get going. You need to be quick off the mark for this bit – there’s some urgent Escape key pressing required, but don’t worry, Chuck walks you through everything.
Create a VM and expand your storage
Once you’ve followed all those steps, you will be up, running, and ready to go. The installation process only takes up the first 15 minutes of Chuck’s project video, and he spends the rest of his time walking you through creating your first VM and adding more storage.
Why use a regular swear jar to retrain your potty-mouthed brain when you can build a Swear Bear to help you instead?
Swear Bear listens to you. All the time. And Swear Bear can tell when a swear word is used. Swear Bear tells you off and saves all the swear words you said to the cloud to shame you. Swear Bear subscribes to the school of tough love.
The microphone allows Swear Bear to ‘hear’ your speech, and through its speakers it can then tell you off for swearing.
All of hardware is squeezed into the stuffing-free bear once the text-to-speech and profanity detection software is working.
Babbage Bear hack?
8 Bits and a Byte fan Ben Scarboro took to the comments on YouTube to suggest they rework one of our Babbage Bears into a Swear Bear. Babbage is teeny tiny, so maybe you would need to fashion a giant version to accomplish this. Just don’t make us watch while you pull out its stuffing.
You can use an Ethernet cable, but Mike wanted to utilise Raspberry Pi 4’s wireless connectivity to boot the Volumio app. This way, the Raspberry Pi music player can be used anywhere in the house, as it’ll create its own wireless hotspot within your home network called ‘Volumio’.
You’ll need a different version of the Volumio app depending on whether you have an Android phone or iPhone. Mike touts the app as “super easy, really robust”. You just select the music app you usually use from the ‘Plugins’ section of the Volumio app, and all your music, playlists, and cover art will be there ready for you once downloaded.
And that’s basically it. Just connect to the Volumio OS via the app and tell your Raspberry Pi what to play.
Design Engineering student Ben Cobley has created a Raspberry Pi–powered sous-chef that automates the easier pan-cooking tasks so the head chef can focus on culinary creativity.
Ben named his invention OnionBot, as the idea came to him when looking for an automated way to perfectly soften onions in a pan while he got on with the rest of his dish. I have yet to manage to retrieve onions from the pan before they blacken so… *need*.
Ben’s affordable solution is much better suited to home cooking than the big, expensive robotic arms used in industry. Using our tiny computer also allowed Ben to create something that fits on a kitchen counter.
What can OnionBot do?
Tells you on-screen when it is time to advance to the next stage of a recipe
Autonomously controls the pan temperature using PID feedback control
Detects when the pan is close to boiling over and automatically turns down the heat
Reminds you if you haven’t stirred the pan in a while
How does it work?
A thermal sensor array suspended above the stove detects the pan temperature, and the Raspberry Pi Camera Module helps track the cooking progress. A servo motor controls the dial on the induction stove.
No machine learning expertise was required to train an image classifier, running on Raspberry Pi, for Ben’s robotic creation; you’ll see in the video that the classifier is a really simple drag-and-drop affair.
Ben has only taught his sous-chef one pasta dish so far, and we admire his dedication to carbs.
Ben built a control panel for labelling training images in real time and added labels at key recipe milestones while he cooked under the camera’s eye. This process required 500–1000 images per milestone, so Ben made a LOT of pasta while training his robotic sous-chef’s image classifier.
Ben open-sourced this project so you can collaborate to suggest improvements or teach your own robot sous-chef some more dishes. Here’s OnionBot on GitHub.
We love seeing how quickly our community of makers responds when we drop a new product, and one of the fastest off the starting block when we released the new Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 on Monday was YouTuber Jeff Geerling.
We made him keep it a secret until launch day after we snuck one to him early so we could see what one of YouTube’s chief advocates for our Compute Module line thought of our newest baby.
So how does our newest board compare to its predecessor, Compute Module 3+? In Jeff’s first video (above) he reviews some of Compute Module 4’s new features, and he has gone into tons more detail in this blog post.
Jeff also took to live stream for a Q&A (above) covering some of the most asked questions about Compute Module 4, and sharing some more features he missed in his initial review video.
His next video (above) is pretty cool. Jeff explains:
“Everyone knows you can overclock the Pi 4. But what happens when you overclock a Compute Module 4? The results surprised me!”
And again, there’s tons more detail on temperature measurement, storage performance, and more on Jeff’s blog.
Top job, Jeff. We have our eyes on your channel for more videos on Compute Module 4, coming soon.
One of our fave makers, Wayne fromDevscover, got a bit sick of losing at Scrabble (and his girlfriend was likely raging at being stuck in lockdown with a lesser opponent). So he came up with a Raspberry Pi–powered solution!
Using a Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera and a bit of Python, you can quickly figure out the highest-scoring word your available Scrabble tiles allow you to play.
Raspberry Pi 3B
Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera
Power supply for the touchscreen and Raspberry Pi
You don’t have to use a Raspberry Pi 3B, but you do need a model that has both display and camera ports. Wayne also chose to use an official Raspberry Pi Touch Display because it can power the computer, but any screen that can talk to your Raspberry Pi should be fine.
Firstly, the build takes a photo of your Scrabble tiles using raspistill.
Next, a Python script processes the image of your tiles and then relays the highest-scoring word you can play to your touchscreen.
The key bit of code here is twl, a Python script that contains every possible word you can play in Scrabble.
From 4.00 minutes into his build video, Wayne walks you through what each bit of code does and how he made it work for this project, including how he installed and used the Scrabble dictionary.
Fellow Scrabble-strugglers have suggested sneaky upgrades in the comments of Wayne’s YouTube video, such having the build relay answers to a more discreet smart watch.
No word yet on how the setup deals with the blank Scrabble tiles; those things are like gold dust.
This Minecraft sign uses a Raspberry Pi to notify you when, and how many of, your friends are logged into your dedicated Minecraft server.
Let’s start by pointing out how wonderfully nostalgic many of Wes ‘Geeksmithing’ Swain’s projects are. From his Raspberry Pi–housing cement Thwomp that plays his favourite Mario games to The NES Project, his NES replica unit with a built-in projector — Wes makes the things we wished for as kids.
The NES Project covered in HackSpace magazine
We honestly wouldn’t be surprised if his next project is a remake of Duckhunt with servo-controlled ducks, or Space Invaders but it’s somehow housed in a flying space invader that shoots back with lasers. Honestly, at this point, we wouldn’t put it past him.
Making the Minecraft friend notification display
In the video, Wes covers the project in two parts. Firstly, he shows off the physical build of making the sign, including laser-cut acrylic front displayed with controllable LED lights, a Raspberry Pi Zero, and the wooden framing.
Secondly, he moves on to the code, in which he uses mcstatus, a Python class created by Minecraft’s Technical Director Nathan Adams that can be used to query servers for information. In this instance, Wes is using mcstatus to check for other players on his group’s dedicated Mincecraft server, but the class can also be used to gather mod information. You can find mcstatus on GitHub.
Each friend is assigned a letter that illuminates if they’re online.
Lucky for Wes, he has the same number of friends on his server as the number of letters in ‘Minecraft’, so for every friend online, he’s programmed the display to illuminate a letter of the Minecraft logo. And while the server is empty, he can also set the display to run through various light displays, including this one, a dedication to the new Minecraft Nether update.
Is your Nintendo Switch behaving more like a Nintendon’t due to poor connectivity? Well, TopSpec (hosted Chris Barlas) has shared a brilliant Raspberry Pi-powered hack on YouTube to help you fix that.
Here’s the problem…
When you play Switch online, the servers are peer-to-peer. The Switches decide which Switch’s internet connection is more stable, and that player becomes the host.
However, some users have found that poor internet performance causes game play to lag. Why? It’s to do with the way data is shared between the Switches, as ‘packets’.
What are packets?
Think of it like this: 200 postcards will fit through your letterbox a few at a time, but one big file wrapped as a parcel won’t. Even though it’s only one, it’s too big to fit. So instead, you could receive all the postcards through the letterbox and stitch them together once they’ve been delivered.
Similarly, a packet is a small unit of data sent over a network, and packets are reassembled into a whole file, or some other chunk of related data, by the computer that receives them.
Problems arise if any of the packets containing your Switch game’s data go missing, or arrive late. This will cause the game to pause.
Want to increase the slow internet speed of your Nintendo Switch? Having lag in games like Smash, Mario Maker, and more? Well, we decided to try out a really…
Chris explains that games like Call of Duty have code built in to mitigate the problems around this, but that it seems to be missing from a lot of Switch titles.
How can Raspberry Pi help?
The advantage of using Raspberry Pi is that it can handle wireless networking more reliably than Nintendo Switch on its own. Bring the two devices together using a LAN adapter, and you’ve got a perfect pairing. Chris reports speeds up to three times faster using this hack.
A Nintendo Switch > LAN adaptor > Raspberry Pi
He ran a download speed test using a Nintendo Switch by itself, and then using a Nintendo Switch with a LAN adapter plugged into a Raspberry Pi. He found the Switch connected to the Raspberry Pi was quicker than the Switch on its own.
At 02mins 50secs of Chris’ video, he walks through the steps you’ll need to take to get similar results.
We’ve handily linked to some of the things Chris mentions here:
To test his creation, Chris ran a speed test downloading a 10GB game, Pokémon Shield, using three different connection solutions. The Raspberry Pi hack came out “way ahead” of the wireless connection relying on the Switch alone. Of course, plugging your Switch directly into your internet router would get the fastest results of all, but routers have a habit of being miles away from where you want to sit and play.
Have all of y’all been hoarding toilet roll over recent weeks in an inexplicable response to the global pandemic, or is that just a quirk here in the UK? Well, the most inventive use of the essential household item we’ve ever seen is this musical project by Max Björverud.
Ahh, the dulcet tones of wall-mounted toilet roll holders, hey? This looks like one of those magical ‘how do they do that?’ projects but, rest assured, it’s all explicable.
Max explains that Singing Toilet is made possible with a Raspberry Pi running Pure Data. The invention also comprises a HiFiBerry Amp, an Arduino Mega, eight hall effect sensors, and eight magnets. The toilet roll holders are controlled with the hall effect sensors, and the magnets connect to the Arduino Mega.
In this video, you can see the hall effect sensor and the 3D-printed attachment that holds the magnet:
Max measures the speed of each toilet roll with a hall effect sensor and magnet. The audio is played and sampled with a Pure Data patch. In the comments on his original Reddit post, he says this was all pretty straight-forward but that it took a while to print a holder for the magnets, because you need to be able to change the toilet rolls when the precious bathroom tissue runs out!
Max began prototyping his invention last summer and installed it at creative agency Snask in his hometown of Stockholm in December.
Here’s one of those lovely “old tech new spec” projects, courtesy of hackster.io pro Martin Mander.
After finding a vintage Apollo microwave detector at a car boot sale, and realising the display hole in the top was roughly the same size as a small Adafruit screen, he saw the potential to breath new life into its tired exterior. And resurrected it as a thermal camera!
Right up top – the finished product!
Martin assumes it would have been used to test microwave levels in some kind of industrial setting, given microwave ovens were a rarity when it was produced.
Old components stripped and ready for a refit
Anyhow, a fair bit of the original case needed to be hacked at or sawn off to make sure all the new components could fit inside. A Raspberry Pi Zero provides the brains of the piece. Martin chose this because he wanted to run the scipy python module to perform bicubic interpolation on the captured data, making the captured images look bigger and better. The thermal sensor is an Adafruit AMG8833IR Thermal Camera Breakout, which uses an 8×8 array of sensors to create the heat image.
The tiny but readable display screen
The results are displayed in real time on a bright 1.3″ TFT display. Power comes from a cylindrical USB battery pack concealed in the hand grip, which is recharged by opening up the nose cone and plugging in a USB lead. Just three Python scripts control the menu logic, sensor, and Adafruit.io integration, with the display handled by PyGame.
It gets better: with the click of a button, a snapshot of whatever the thermal camera is looking at is taken and then uploaded to an Adafruit dashboard for you to look at or share later.
Sensor and screen wired up
Martin’s original post is incredibly detailed, walking you through the teardown of the original piece, the wiring, how to tweak all the code and, of course, how he went about giving it that fabulous BB-8 orange-and-white makeover. He recorded the entire process in this 24-minute opus:
This vintage Apollo microwave detector now has a shiny new purpose as a thermal camera, powered by a Raspberry Pi Zero with an Adafruit thermal camera sensor…
But what can you actually do with it? Martin’s suggestions range from checking your beer is cold enough before opening it, to testing your washing machine temperature mid-cycle. If you watch his video, you’ll see he’s also partial to monitoring cat tummy temperatures. His kid doesn’t like having his forehead Apollo Pi’d though.
People make marvellous things for their pets with Raspberry Pi. Here’s a splendid hamster feeder tutorial from Christopher Barnatt of Explaining Computers, just perfect if you’re after a small project for this weekend.
Raspberry Pi servo-controlled pet feeder, using a Raspberry Pi Zero and two SG90 servo motors. This project builds on the servo control code and setup from m…
All you need to build your hamster feeder is a Raspberry Pi Zero and peripherals, a couple of servos, some plasticard, sellotape and liquid polyadhesive, and some jumper wires. The video takes you very clearly through the entire set-up, from measurements to wiring details to Python code (which is available to download). As Christopher explains, this will allow you to feed your hamster controlled portions of food at suitable intervals, so that it doesn’t eat the lot in one go and, consequently, explode. What’s not to love?
Check out the Explaining Computers YouTube channel for more clear, detailed videos to help you do more with computing. And for more Raspberry Pi projects, head to our own Raspberry Pi projects, with hundreds of ideas for beginners and beyond available in English and many other languages.
Have you ever missed out on a great deal on Amazon because you were completely unaware it existed? Are you interested in a specific item but waiting for it to go on sale? Here’s help: Devscover’s latest video shows you how to create an Amazon price tracker using Raspberry Pi Zero W and Python.
Wayne from Devscover shows you how to code a Amazon Price Tracker with Python! Get started with your first Python project. Land a job at a big firm like Google, Facebook, Twitter or even the less well known but equally exciting big retail organisations or Government with Devscover tutorials and tips.
By following their video tutorial, you can set up a notification system on Raspberry Pi Zero W that emails you every time your chosen item’s price drops. Very nice.
Devscover’s tutorial is so detailed that it seems a waste to try and summarise it here. So instead, why not make yourself a cup of tea and sit down with the video? It’s worth the time investment: if you follow the instructions, you’ll end up with a great piece of tech that’ll save you money!
A contractor is drilling in the office space above ours, and it sounds like we’re under attack by a swarm of very angry, Transformeresque bees. We can’t hear ourselves think. Although we can hear the drills.
Because of this disruption, I (Alex) am unable to focus on words. [Ed’s note: me too. We apologies for any typos.] So here you go. Have an interesting video from YouTuber Blitz City DIY.
Can you help Liz create a wireless monitor for her GoPro Hero 6 using VLC on a Raspberry Pi despite the latest changes to GoPro software?
YouTube is a haven for awesome Raspberry Pi projects, and we often spend time scanning through the platform’s wares for hidden gems. One such hidden gem is this video from TechWiser, in which they showcase some of their favourite Raspberry Pi projects:
Have you ever considered attaching your Raspberry Pi 4 to an Apple iPad Pro? How would you do it, and why would you want to? Here’s YouTuber Tech Craft to explain why Raspberry Pi 4 is their favourite iPad Pro accessory, and why you may want to consider using yours in the same way.
We’ve set the video to start at Tech Craft’s explanation.
The Raspberry Pi 4 is my favourite accessory to use with the iPad Pro. In this video, learn more about what the Pi can do, what gear you need to get running with one, how to connect it to your iPad and what you’ll find it useful for.
Having installed Raspbian on Raspberry Pi and configured the computer to use USB-C as an Ethernet connection (read Ben Hardill’s guide to find out how to do this), Tech Craft could select it as an Ethernet device in the iPad’s Settings menu.
So why would you want to connect your Raspberry Pi 4 to your iPad? For starters, using your iPad instead of a conventional HDMI monitor will free up desk space, and also allow you to edit your code on the move. And when you’ve connected the two devices like this, you don’t need a separate power lead for Raspberry Pi, because the iPad powers the computer. So this setup is perfect for train or plane journeys, or for that moment when your robot stops working at a Raspberry Jam, or for maker conventions.
You can also use Raspberry Pi as a bridge between your iPad and portable hard drive, for disk management.
Tech Craft uses the SSH client Blink to easily connect to their Raspberry Pi via its fixed IP address, and with Juno Connect, they connect to a running Jupyter instance on their Raspberry Pi to do data science work.
For more information on using Raspberry Pi with an iPad, make sure you watch the whole video. And, because you’re a lovely person, be sure to subscribe to Tech Craft for more videos, such as this one on how to connect wirelessly to your Raspberry Pi from any computer or tablet:
In the latest Explaining Computers video, Christopher Barnatt explains how to use servo motors with Raspberry Pi. Using servos is a great introduction to the digital making side of computing; servos allow you to control the movement of all manner of project components with your Raspberry Pi and a motor controller attached to its GPIO pins.
Control of SG90 servos in Python on a Raspberry Pi, including an explanation of PWM and how a servo differs from a motor. You can download the code from the video at: https://www.explainingcomputers.com/pi_servos_video.html The five-pack of SG90 servos used in this video was purchased on Amazon.co.uk here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07H9VC698/ref=nosim?tag=explainin-21 with a similar product on Amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/2QHshx3 (affiliate links).
Servos and your Raspberry Pi
Christopher picked up his SG90 servo motors online, where you’ll find a variety of servo options. What type of servo you need depends on the project you want to create, so be sure to consider the weight and size of what you plan to move, and the speed at which you need to move it.
As the motor controller connects via GPIO, you can even use the tiny £5 Raspberry Pi Zero to control your servo, which makes adding movement to your projects an option even when you’re under tight space constraints.
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