Digital making for new parents

Solving problems that are meaningful to us is at the core of our approach to teaching and learning about technology here at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Over the last eight months, I’ve noticed that the types of digital making projects that motivate and engage me have changed (can’t think why). Always looking for ways to save money and automate my life and the lives of my loved ones, I’ve been thinking a lot about how digital making projects could be the new best friend of any new parent.

A baby, oblivious to the amount its parents have spent on stuff they never knew existed last year.
Image: sweet baby by MRef photography / CC BY-ND 2.0

Baby Monitor

I never knew how much equipment one small child needs until very recently. I also had no idea of the range of technology that is on offer to support you as a new parent to ensure the perfect environment outside of the womb. Baby monitors are at the top of this list. There are lots of Raspberry Pi baby monitor projects with a range of sensing functionality already in existence, and we’ve blogged about some of them before. They’re a great example of how an understanding of technology can open up a range of solutions that won’t break the bank. I’m looking forward to using all the capabilities of the Raspberry Pi to keep an eye on baby.

Baby name generator

Another surprising discovery was just how difficult it is to name a human being. Surprising because I can give a name to an inanimate object in less than three seconds, and come up with nicknames for colleagues in less than a day. My own offspring, though, and I draw a blank. The only solution: write a Python program to randomly generate names based on some parameters!

<span style="color: #ff6600">import</span> names&#13;
<span style="color: #ff6600">from</span> time <span style="color: #ff6600">import</span> sleep&#13;
<span style="color: #ff6600">from</span> guizero <span style="color: #ff6600">import</span> App, ButtonGroup, Text, PushButton, TextBox&#13;
&#13;
<span style="color: #ff6600">def</span> get_name():&#13;
    boyname = names.get_first_name(gender='male')&#13;
    girlname = names.get_first_name(gender='female')&#13;
    othername = names.get_first_name()&#13;
&#13;
    <span style="color: #ff6600">if</span> babygender.get() == "male":&#13;
        name.set(str(boyname)+" "+str(babylastname.get()))&#13;
    <span style="color: #ff6600">elif</span> babygender.get() == "female":&#13;
        name.set(str(girlname)+" "+str(babylastname.get()))&#13;
    <span style="color: #ff6600">else:</span>&#13;
        name.set(str(othername)+" "+str(babylastname.get()))&#13;
&#13;
app = App("Baby name generator")&#13;
surname_label = Text(app, "What is your surname?")&#13;
babylastname = TextBox(app, width=50)&#13;
babygender = ButtonGroup(app, options=[["boy", "male"], ["girl", "female"], ["all", "all"]], selected="male", horizontal=True)&#13;
intro = Text(app, "Your baby name could be")&#13;
name = Text(app, "")&#13;
button = PushButton(app, get_name, text="Generate me a name")&#13;
&#13;
app.display()

Thanks to the names and GUIZero Python libraries, it is super simple to create, resolving any possible parent-to-be naming disputes in mere minutes.

Food, Poo, or Love?

I love data. Not just in Star Trek, but also more generally. Collecting and analysing data to understand my sleep patterns, my eating habits, how much exercise I do, and how much time I spend watching YouTube videos consumes much of my time. So of course I want to know lots about the little person we’ve made, long before he can use language to tell us himself.

I’m told that most newborns’ needs are quite simple: they want food, they want to be changed, or they just want some cuddles. I’m certain it’s more complicated than this, but it’s a good starting point for a data set, so stick with me here. I also wondered whether there might be a correlation between the amplitude of the cry and the type of need the baby has. A bit of an imprecise indicator, maybe, but fun to start to think about.

This build’s success is mostly thanks to Pimoroni’s Rainbow HAT, which, conveniently, has three capacitive touch buttons to record the newborn’s need, four fourteen-segment displays to display the words “FOOD”, “POO”, and “LOVE” when a button is pressed, and seven multicoloured LEDs to indicate the ferociousness of the baby’s cry in glorious technicolour. With the addition of a microphone, the ‘Food, Poo, Love Machine’ was born. Here it is in action:

Food Poo Love – Raspberry Pi Baby Monitor Project

Food Poo Love – The Raspberry Pi baby monitor project that allows you to track data on your new born baby.

Automatic Baby mobile

Another project that I’ve not had time to hack on, but that I think would be really awesome, is to automate a baby cot mobile. Imagine this one moving to the Star Trek theme music:

Image courtesy of Gisele Blaker Designs (check out her cool shop!)

Pretty awesome.

If you’ve got any more ideas for baby projects, do let me know. I’ll have a few months of nothing to do… right?

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Matt’s steampunk radio jukebox

Matt Van Gastel breathed new life into his great-grandparents’ 1930s Westinghouse with a Raspberry Pi, an amplifier HAT, Google Music, and some serious effort. The result is a really beautiful, striking piece.

Matt Van Gastel Steampunk Radio Raspberry Pi

The radio

With a background in radio electronics, Matt Van Gastel had always planned to restore his great-grandparents’ mid-30s Westinghouse radio. “I even found the original schematics glued to the bottom of the base of the main electronics assembly,” he explains in his Instructables walkthrough. However, considering the age of the piece and the cost of sourcing parts for a repair, he decided to take the project in a slightly different direction.



“I pulled the main electronics assembly out quite easily, it was held in by four flat head screws […] I decided to make a Steampunk themed Jukebox based off this main assembly and power it with a Raspberry Pi,” he writes.

The build

Matt added JustBoom’s Amp HAT to a Raspberry Pi 3 to boost the sound quality and functionality of the board.

He spent a weekend prototyping and testing the electronics before deciding on his final layout. After a little time playing around with different software, Matt chose Mopidy, a flexible music server written in Python. Mopidy lets him connect to his music-streaming service of choice, Google Music, and also allows airplay connectivity for other wireless devices.

Stripping out the old electronics from inside the Westinghouse radio easily made enough space for Matt’s new, much smaller, setup. Reserving various pieces for the final build, and scrubbing the entire unit to within an inch of its life with soap and water, he moved on to the aesthetics of the piece.

The steampunk

LED Nixie tubes, a 1950s DC voltmeter, and spray paint all contributed to the final look of the radio. It has a splendid steampunk look that works wonderfully with the vintage of the original radio.



Retrofit and steampunk Raspberry Pi builds

From old pub jukeboxes to Bakelite kitchen radios, we’ve seen lots of retrofit audio visual Pi projects over the years, with all kinds of functionality and in all sorts of styles.

Americana – does exactly what it says on the tin jukebox

For more steampunk inspiration, check out phrazelle’s laptop and Derek Woodroffe’s tentacle hat. And for more audiophile builds, Tijuana Rick’s 60s Wurlitzer and Steve Devlin’s 50s wallbox are stand-out examples.

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Pioneers winners: only you can save us

She asked for help, and you came to her aid. Pioneers, the winners of the Only you can save us challenge have been picked!

Can you see me? Only YOU can save us!

I need your help. This is a call out for those between 11- and 16-years-old in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Something has gone very, very wrong and only you can save us. I’ve collected together as much information for you as I can. You’ll find it at http://www.raspberrypi.org/pioneers.

The challenge

In August we intercepted an emergency communication from a lonesome survivor. She seemed to be in quite a bit of trouble, and asked all you young people aged 11 to 16 to come up with something to help tackle the oncoming crisis, using whatever technology you had to hand. You had ten weeks to work in teams of two to five with an adult mentor to fulfil your mission.

The judges

We received your world-saving ideas, and our savvy survivor pulled together a ragtag bunch of apocalyptic experts to help us judge which ones would be the winning entries.

Dr Shini Somara

Dr Shini Somara is an advocate for STEM education and a mechanical engineer. She was host of The Health Show and has appeared in documentaries for the BBC, PBS Digital, and Sky. You can check out her work hosting Crash Course Physics on YouTube.

Prof Lewis Dartnell is an astrobiologist and author of the book The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch.

Emma Stephenson has a background in aeronautical engineering and currently works in the Shell Foundation’s Access to Energy and Sustainable Mobility portfolio.

Currently sifting through the entries with the other judges of #makeyourideas with @raspberrypifoundation @_raspberrypi_

151 Likes, 3 Comments – Shini Somara (@drshinisomara) on Instagram: “Currently sifting through the entries with the other judges of #makeyourideas with…”

The winners

Our survivor is currently putting your entries to good use repairing, rebuilding, and defending her base. Our judges chose the following projects as outstanding examples of world-saving digital making.

Theme winner: Computatron

Raspberry Pioneers 2017 – Nerfus Dislikus Killer Robot

This is our entry to the pioneers ‘Only you can save us’ competition. Our team name is Computatrum. Hope you enjoy!

Are you facing an unknown enemy whose only weakness is Nerf bullets? Then this is the robot for you! We loved the especially apocalyptic feel of the Computatron’s cleverly hacked and repurposed elements. The team even used an old floppy disc mechanism to help fire their bullets!

Technically brilliant: Robot Apocalypse Committee

Pioneers Apocalypse 2017 – RationalPi

Thousands of lines of code… Many sheets of acrylic… A camera, touchscreen and fingerprint scanner… This is our entry into the Raspberry Pi Pioneers2017 ‘Only YOU can Save Us’ theme. When zombies or other survivors break into your base, you want a secure way of storing your crackers.

The Robot Apocalypse Committee is back, and this time they’ve brought cheese! The crew designed a cheese- and cracker-dispensing machine complete with face and fingerprint recognition to ensure those rations last until the next supply drop.

Best explanation: Pi Chasers

Tala – Raspberry Pi Pioneers Project

Hi! We are PiChasers and we entered the Raspberry Pi Pionners challenge last time when the theme was “Make it Outdoors!” but now we’ve been faced with another theme “Apocolypse”. We spent a while thinking of an original thing that would help in an apocolypse and decided upon a ‘text-only phone’ which uses local radio communication rather than cellular.

This text-based communication device encased in a tupperware container could be a lifesaver in a crisis! And luckily, the Pi Chasers produced an excellent video and amazing GitHub repo, ensuring that any and all survivors will be able to build their own in the safety of their base.

Most inspiring journey: Three Musketeers

We all know that zombies are terrible at geometry, and the Three Musketeers used this fact to their advantage when building their zombie security system. We were impressed to see the team working together to overcome the roadblocks they faced along the way.

We appreciate what you’re trying to do: Zombie Trolls

Zombie In The Middle

Uploaded by CDA Bodgers on 2017-12-01.

Playing piggy in the middle with zombies sure is a unique way of saving humankind from total extinction! We loved this project idea, and although the Zombie Trolls had a little trouble with their motors, we’re sure with a little more tinkering this zombie-fooling contraption could save us all.

Most awesome

Our judges also wanted to give a special commendation to the following teams for their equally awesome apocalypse-averting ideas:

  • PiRates, for their multifaceted zombie-proofing defence system and the high production value of their video
  • Byte them Pis, for their beautiful zombie-detecting doormat
  • Unatecxon, for their impressive bunker security system
  • Team Crompton, for their pressure-activated door system
  • Team Ernest, for their adventures in LEGO

The prizes

All our winning teams have secured exclusive digital maker boxes. These are jam-packed with tantalising tech to satisfy all tinkering needs, including:

Our theme winners have also secured themselves a place at Coolest Projects 2018 in Dublin, Ireland!

Thank you to everyone who got involved in this round of Pioneers. Look out for your awesome submission swag arriving in the mail!

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CoderDojo: 2000 Dojos ever

Every day of the week, we verify new Dojos all around the world, and each Dojo is championed by passionate volunteers. Last week, a huge milestone for the CoderDojo community went by relatively unnoticed: in the history of the movement, more than 2000 Dojos have now been verified!

CoderDojo banner — 2000 Dojos

2000 Dojos

This is a phenomenal achievement for a movement that’s just six years old and powered by volunteers. Presently, there are more than 1650 active Dojos running weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, and all of them are free for participants — for example, the Dojos run by Joel Bayubasire in Kampala, Uganda:

Joel Bayubasire with Ninjas at his Ugandan Dojo — 2000 Dojos

Empowering refugee children

This week, Joel set up his second Dojo and verified it on our global map. Joel is a Congolese refugee living in Kampala, Uganda, where he is currently completing his PhD in Economics at Madison International Institute and Business School.

Joel understands first-hand the challenges faced by refugees who were forced to leave their country due to war or conflict. Uganda is currently hosting more than 1.2 million refugees, 60% of which are children (World Bank, 2017). As refugees, children are only allowed to attend local schools until the age of 12. This results in lower educational attainment, which will likely affect their future employment prospects.

Two girls at a laptop. Joel Bayubasire CoderDojo — 2000 Dojos

Joel has the motivation to overcome these challenges, because he understands the power of education. Therefore, he initiated a number of community-based activities to provide educational opportunities for refugee children. As part of this, he founded his first Dojo earlier in the year, with the aim of giving these children a chance to compete in today’s global knowledge-based economy.

Two boys at a laptop. Joel Bayubasire CoderDojo — 2000 Dojos

Aware that securing volunteer mentors would be a challenge, Joel trained eight young people from the community to become youth mentors to their peers. He explains:

I believe that the mastery of computer coding allows talented young people to thrive professionally and enables them to not only be consumers but creators of the interconnected world of today!

Based on the success of Joel’s first Dojo, he has now expanded the CoderDojo initiative in his community; his plan is to provide computer science training for more than 300 refugee youths in Kampala by 2019. If you’d like to learn more about Joel’s efforts, head to this website.

Join the movement

If you are interested in creating opportunities for the young people in your community, then join the growing CoderDojo movement — you can volunteer to start a Dojo or to support an existing one today!

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Sean Hodgins’ video-playing Christmas ornament

Standard Christmas tree ornaments are just so boring, always hanging there doing nothing. Yawn! Lucky for us, Sean Hodgins has created an ornament that plays classic nineties Christmas adverts, because of nostalgia.

YouTube Christmas Ornament! – Raspberry Pi Project

This Christmas ornament will really take you back…

Ingredients

Sean first 3D printed a small CRT-shaped ornament resembling the family television set in The Simpsons. He then got to work on the rest of the components.

Pi Zero and electronic components — Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Christmas ornament

All images featured in this blog post are c/o Sean Hodgins. Thanks, Sean!

The ornament uses a Raspberry Pi Zero W, 2.2″ TFT LCD screen, Mono Amp, LiPo battery, and speaker, plus the usual peripherals. Sean purposely assembled it with jumper wires and tape, so that he can reuse the components for another project after the festive season.

Clip of PowerBoost 1000 LiPo charger — Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Christmas ornament

By adding header pins to a PowerBoost 1000 LiPo charger, Sean was able to connect a switch to control the Pi’s power usage. This method is handy if you want to seal your Pi in a casing that blocks access to the power leads. From there, jumper wires connect the audio amplifier, LCD screen, and PowerBoost to the Zero W.

Code

Then, with Raspbian installed to an SD card and SSH enabled on the Zero W, Sean got the screen to work. The type of screen he used has both SPI and FBTFT enabled. And his next step was to set up the audio functionality with the help of an Adafruit tutorial.

Clip demoing Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Christmas ornament

For video playback, Sean installed mplayer before writing a program to extract video content from YouTube*. Once extracted, the video files are saved to the Raspberry Pi, allowing for seamless playback on the screen.

Construct

When fully assembled, the entire build fit snugly within the 3D-printed television set. And as a final touch, Sean added the cut-out lens of a rectangular magnifying glass to give the display the look of a curved CRT screen.

Clip of completed Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Christmas ornament in a tree

Then finally, the ornament hangs perfectly on the Christmas tree, up and running and spreading nostalgic warmth.

For more information on the build, check out the Instructables tutorial. And to see all of Sean’s builds, subscribe to his YouTube channel.

Make

If you’re looking for similar projects, have a look at this tutorial by Cabe Atwell for building a Pi-powered ornament that receives and displays text messages.

Have you created Raspberry Pi tree ornaments? Maybe you’ve 3D printed some of our own? We’d love to see what you’re doing with a Raspberry Pi this festive season, so make sure to share your projects with us, either in the comments below or via our social media channels.

 

*At this point, I should note that we don’t support the extraction of  video content from YouTube for your own use if you do not have the right permissions. However, since Sean’s device can play back any video, we think it would look great on your tree showing your own family videos from previous years. So, y’know, be good, be legal, and be festive.

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The Raspberry Pi Christmas shopping list 2017

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for a beloved maker in your life? Maybe you’d like to give a relative or friend a taste of the world of coding and Raspberry Pi? Whatever you’re looking for, the Raspberry Pi Christmas shopping list will point you in the right direction.

An ice-skating Raspberry Pi - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

For those getting started

Thinking about introducing someone special to the wonders of Raspberry Pi during the holidays? Although you can set up your Pi with peripherals from around your home, such as a mobile phone charger, your PC’s keyboard, and the old mouse dwelling in an office drawer, a starter kit is a nice all-in-one package for the budding coder.



Check out the starter kits from Raspberry Pi Approved Resellers such as Pimoroni, The Pi Hut, ModMyPi, Adafruit, CanaKit…the list is pretty long. Our products page will direct you to your closest reseller, or you can head to element14 to pick up the official Raspberry Pi Starter Kit.



You can also buy the Raspberry Pi Press’s brand-new Raspberry Pi Beginners Book, which includes a Raspberry Pi Zero W, a case, a ready-made SD card, and adapter cables.

Once you’ve presented a lucky person with their first Raspberry Pi, it’s time for them to spread their maker wings and learn some new skills.

MagPi Essentials books - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

To help them along, you could pick your favourite from among the Official Projects Book volume 3, The MagPi Essentials guides, and the brand-new third edition of Carrie Anne Philbin’s Adventures in Raspberry Pi. (She is super excited about this new edition!)

And you can always add a link to our free resources on the gift tag.

For the maker in your life

If you’re looking for something for a confident digital maker, you can’t go wrong with adding to their arsenal of electric and electronic bits and bobs that are no doubt cluttering drawers and boxes throughout their house.



Components such as servomotors, displays, and sensors are staples of the maker world. And when it comes to jumper wires, buttons, and LEDs, one can never have enough.



You could also consider getting your person a soldering iron, some helpings hands, or small tools such as a Dremel or screwdriver set.

And to make their life a little less messy, pop it all inside a Really Useful Box…because they’re really useful.



For kit makers

While some people like to dive into making head-first and to build whatever comes to mind, others enjoy working with kits.



The Naturebytes kit allows you to record the animal visitors of your garden with the help of a camera and a motion sensor. Footage of your local badgers, birds, deer, and more will be saved to an SD card, or tweeted or emailed to you if it’s in range of WiFi.

Cortec Tiny 4WD - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

Coretec’s Tiny 4WD is a kit for assembling a Pi Zero–powered remote-controlled robot at home. Not only is the robot adorable, building it also a great introduction to motors and wireless control.



Bare Conductive’s Touch Board Pro Kit offers everything you need to create interactive electronics projects using conductive paint.

Pi Hut Arcade Kit - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

Finally, why not help your favourite maker create their own gaming arcade using the Arcade Building Kit from The Pi Hut?

For the reader

For those who like to curl up with a good read, or spend too much of their day on public transport, a book or magazine subscription is the perfect treat.

For makers, hackers, and those interested in new technologies, our brand-new HackSpace magazine and the ever popular community magazine The MagPi are ideal. Both are available via a physical or digital subscription, and new subscribers to The MagPi also receive a free Raspberry Pi Zero W plus case.

Cover of CoderDojo Nano Make your own game

Marc Scott Beginner's Guide to Coding Book

You can also check out other publications from the Raspberry Pi family, including CoderDojo’s new CoderDojo Nano: Make Your Own Game, Eben Upton and Gareth Halfacree’s Raspberry Pi User Guide, and Marc Scott’s A Beginner’s Guide to Coding. And have I mentioned Carrie Anne’s Adventures in Raspberry Pi yet?

Stocking fillers for everyone

Looking for something small to keep your loved ones occupied on Christmas morning? Or do you have to buy a Secret Santa gift for the office tech? Here are some wonderful stocking fillers to fill your boots with this season.

Pi Hut 3D Christmas Tree - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

The Pi Hut 3D Xmas Tree: available as both a pre-soldered and a DIY version, this gadget will work with any 40-pin Raspberry Pi and allows you to create your own mini light show.



Google AIY Voice kit: build your own home assistant using a Raspberry Pi, the MagPi Essentials guide, and this brand-new kit. “Google, play Mariah Carey again…”



Pimoroni’s Raspberry Pi Zero W Project Kits offer everything you need, including the Pi, to make your own time-lapse cameras, music players, and more.



The official Raspberry Pi Sense HAT, Camera Module, and cases for the Pi 3 and Pi Zero will complete the collection of any Raspberry Pi owner, while also opening up exciting project opportunities.

STEAM gifts that everyone will love

Awesome Astronauts | Building LEGO’s Women of NASA!

LEGO Idea’s bought out this amazing ‘Women of NASA’ set, and I thought it would be fun to build, play and learn from these inspiring women! First up, let’s discover a little more about Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, two AWESOME ASTRONAUTS!

Treat the kids, and big kids, in your life to the newest LEGO Ideas set, the Women of NASA — starring Nancy Grace Roman, Margaret Hamilton, Sally Ride, and Mae Jemison!



Explore the world of wearables with Pimoroni’s sewable, hackable, wearable, adorable Bearables kits.



Add lights and motors to paper creations with the Activating Origami Kit, available from The Pi Hut.




We all loved Hidden Figures, and the STEAM enthusiast you know will do too. The film’s available on DVD, and you can also buy the original book, along with other fascinating non-fiction such as Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science, and Sydney Padua’s (mostly true) The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.

Have we missed anything?

With so many amazing kits, HATs, and books available from members of the Raspberry Pi community, it’s hard to only pick a few. Have you found something splendid for the maker in your life? Maybe you’ve created your own kit that uses the Raspberry Pi? Share your favourites with us in the comments below or via our social media accounts.

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Marvellous retrofitted home assistants

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.

Google AIY Robot Conversion

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…

Teddy Ruxpin

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…)

Alexa Ruxpin – Raspberry Pi & Alexa Powered Teddy Bear

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:

1986 Google Pi Intercom

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.

Also take a look at Martin’s 1970s Amazon Alexa phone for more nostalgic splendour.

Put it in a box

…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 from the emperors new groove - Raspberry Pi Home Assistant

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:

Raspberry Pi 3 Amazon Echo – The Alexa Kids Build!

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.

Also see the Google AIY Projects Voice kit — the cardboard box-est of home assistant boxes.

Make your own home assistant

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 other home assistants for Raspberry Pi, and keep an eye on our blog to see what I manage to create as part of the challenge.

Ten virtual house points for everyone who shares their build with us online, either in the comments below or by tagging us on your social media account.

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The Pi Towers Secret Santa Babbage

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.

Raspberry Pi Babbage Bear Secret Santa

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?

Secret Santa Babbage

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.

Secret Santa Babbage prototyping

Prototyping!

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.

Secret Santa Babbage prototyping

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.

Secret Santa Babbage inside

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.

Secret Santa Babbage throne

Poor Babbage…

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!

Secret Santa Babbage

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.

Secret Santa Babbage

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.

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GPIO expander: access a Pi’s GPIO pins on your PC/Mac

Use the GPIO pins of a Raspberry Pi Zero while running Debian Stretch on a PC or Mac with our new GPIO expander software! With this tool, you can easily access a Pi Zero’s GPIO pins from your x86 laptop without using SSH, and you can also take advantage of your x86 computer’s processing power in your physical computing projects.

A Raspberry Pi zero connected to a laptop - GPIO expander

What is this magic?

Running our x86 Stretch distribution on a PC or Mac, whether installed on the hard drive or as a live image, is a great way of taking advantage of a well controlled and simple Linux distribution without the need for a Raspberry Pi.

The downside of not using a Pi, however, is that there aren’t any GPIO pins with which your Scratch or Python programs could communicate. This is a shame, because it means you are limited in your physical computing projects.

I was thinking about this while playing around with the Pi Zero’s USB booting capabilities, having seen people employ the Linux gadget USB mode to use the Pi Zero as an Ethernet device. It struck me that, using the udev subsystem, we could create a simple GUI application that automatically pops up when you plug a Pi Zero into your computer’s USB port. Then the Pi Zero could be programmed to turn into an Ethernet-connected computer running pigpio to provide you with remote GPIO pins.

So we went ahead and built this GPIO expander application, and your PC or Mac can now have GPIO pins which are accessible through Scratch or the GPIO Zero Python library. Note that you can only use this tool to access the Pi Zero.

You can also install the application on the Raspberry Pi. Theoretically, you could connect a number of Pi Zeros to a single Pi and (without a USB hub) use a maximum of 140 pins! But I’ve not tested this — one for you, I think…

Making the GPIO expander work

If you’re using a PC or Mac and you haven’t set up x86 Debian Stretch yet, you’ll need to do that first. An easy way to do it is to download a copy of the Stretch release from this page and image it onto a USB stick. Boot from the USB stick (on most computers, you just need to press F10 during booting and select the stick when asked), and then run Stretch directly from the USB key. You can also install it to the hard drive, but be aware that installing it will overwrite anything that was on your hard drive before.

Whether on a Mac, PC, or Pi, boot through to the Stretch desktop, open a terminal window, and install the GPIO expander application:

sudo apt install usbbootgui

Next, plug in your Raspberry Pi Zero (don’t insert an SD card), and after a few seconds the GUI will appear.

A screenshot of the GPIO expander GUI

The Raspberry Pi USB programming GUI

Select GPIO expansion board and click OK. The Pi Zero will now be programmed as a locally connected Ethernet port (if you run ifconfig, you’ll see the new interface usb0 coming up).

What’s really cool about this is that your plugged-in Pi Zero is now running pigpio, which allows you to control its GPIOs through the network interface.

With Scratch 2

To utilise the pins with Scratch 2, just click on the start bar and select Programming > Scratch 2.

In Scratch, click on More Blocks, select Add an Extension, and then click Pi GPIO.

Two new blocks will be added: the first is used to set the output pin, the second is used to get the pin value (it is true if the pin is read high).

This a simple application using a Pibrella I had hanging around:

A screenshot of a Scratch 2 program - GPIO expander

With Python

This is a Python example using the GPIO Zero library to flash an LED:

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ export GPIOZERO_PIN_FACTORY=pigpio&#13;
pi@raspberrypi:~ $ export PIGPIO_ADDR=fe80::1%usb0&#13;
pi@raspberrypi:~ $ python3&#13;
&gt;&gt;&gt; from gpiozero import LED&#13;
&gt;&gt;&gt; led = LED(17)&#13;
&gt;&gt;&gt; led.blink()

A Raspberry Pi zero connected to a laptop - GPIO expander

The pinout command line tool is your friend

Note that in the code above the IP address of the Pi Zero is an IPv6 address and is shortened to fe80::1%usb0, where usb0 is the network interface created by the first Pi Zero.

With pigs directly

Another option you have is to use the pigpio library and the pigs application and redirect the output to the Pi Zero network port running IPv6. To do this, you’ll first need to set some environment variable for the redirection:

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ export PIGPIO_ADDR=fe80::1%usb0&#13;
pi@raspberrypi:~ $ pigs bc2 0x8000&#13;
pi@raspberrypi:~ $ pigs bs2 0x8000

With the commands above, you should be able to flash the LED on the Pi Zero.

The secret sauce

I know there’ll be some people out there who would be interested in how we put this together. And I’m sure many people are interested in the ‘buildroot’ we created to run on the Pi Zero — after all, there are lots of things you can create if you’ve got a Pi Zero on the end of a piece of IPv6 string! For a closer look, find the build scripts for the GPIO expander here and the source code for the USB boot GUI here.

And be sure to share your projects built with the GPIO expander by tagging us on social media or posting links in the comments!

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Stretch for PCs and Macs, and a Raspbian update

Today, we are launching the first Debian Stretch release of the Raspberry Pi Desktop for PCs and Macs, and we’re also releasing the latest version of Raspbian Stretch for your Pi.

Raspberry Pi Desktop Stretch splash screen

For PCs and Macs

When we released our custom desktop environment on Debian for PCs and Macs last year, we were slightly taken aback by how popular it turned out to be. We really only created it as a result of one of those “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” conversations we sometimes have in the office, so we were delighted by the Pi community’s reaction.

Seeing how keen people were on the x86 version, we decided that we were going to try to keep releasing it alongside Raspbian, with the ultimate aim being to make simultaneous releases of both. This proved to be tricky, particularly with the move from the Jessie version of Debian to the Stretch version this year. However, we have now finished the job of porting all the custom code in Raspbian Stretch to Debian, and so the first Debian Stretch release of the Raspberry Pi Desktop for your PC or Mac is available from today.

The new Stretch releases

As with the Jessie release, you can either run this as a live image from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card or install it as the native operating system on the hard drive of an old laptop or desktop computer. Please note that installing this software will erase anything else on the hard drive — do not install this over a machine running Windows or macOS that you still need to use for its original purpose! It is, however, safe to boot a live image on such a machine, since your hard drive will not be touched by this.

We’re also pleased to announce that we are releasing the latest version of Raspbian Stretch for your Pi today. The Pi and PC versions are largely identical: as before, there are a few applications (such as Mathematica) which are exclusive to the Pi, but the user interface, desktop, and most applications will be exactly the same.

For Raspbian, this new release is mostly bug fixes and tweaks over the previous Stretch release, but there are one or two changes you might notice.

File manager

The file manager included as part of the LXDE desktop (on which our desktop is based) is a program called PCManFM, and it’s very feature-rich; there’s not much you can’t do in it. However, having used it for a few years, we felt that it was perhaps more complex than it needed to be — the sheer number of menu options and choices made some common operations more awkward than they needed to be. So to try to make file management easier, we have implemented a cut-down mode for the file manager.

Raspberry Pi Desktop Stretch - file manager

Most of the changes are to do with the menus. We’ve removed a lot of options that most people are unlikely to change, and moved some other options into the Preferences screen rather than the menus. The two most common settings people tend to change — how icons are displayed and sorted — are now options on the toolbar and in a top-level menu rather than hidden away in submenus.

The sidebar now only shows a single hierarchical view of the file system, and we’ve tidied the toolbar and updated the icons to make them match our house style. We’ve removed the option for a tabbed interface, and we’ve stomped a few bugs as well.

One final change was to make it possible to rename a file just by clicking on its icon to highlight it, and then clicking on its name. This is the way renaming works on both Windows and macOS, and it’s always seemed slightly awkward that Unix desktop environments tend not to support it.

As with most of the other changes we’ve made to the desktop over the last few years, the intention is to make it simpler to use, and to ease the transition from non-Unix environments. But if you really don’t like what we’ve done and long for the old file manager, just untick the box for Display simplified user interface and menus in the Layout page of Preferences, and everything will be back the way it was!

Raspberry Pi Desktop Stretch - preferences GUI

Battery indicator for laptops

One important feature missing from the previous release was an indication of the amount of battery life. Eben runs our desktop on his Mac, and he was becoming slightly irritated by having to keep rebooting into macOS just to check whether his battery was about to die — so fixing this was a priority!

We’ve added a battery status icon to the taskbar; this shows current percentage charge, along with whether the battery is charging, discharging, or connected to the mains. When you hover over the icon with the mouse pointer, a tooltip with more details appears, including the time remaining if the battery can provide this information.

Raspberry Pi Desktop Stretch - battery indicator

While this battery monitor is mainly intended for the PC version, it also supports the first-generation pi-top — to see it, you’ll only need to make sure that I2C is enabled in Configuration. A future release will support the new second-generation pi-top.

New PC applications

We have included a couple of new applications in the PC version. One is called PiServer — this allows you to set up an operating system, such as Raspbian, on the PC which can then be shared by a number of Pi clients networked to it. It is intended to make it easy for classrooms to have multiple Pis all running exactly the same software, and for the teacher to have control over how the software is installed and used. PiServer is quite a clever piece of software, and it’ll be covered in more detail in another blog post in December.

We’ve also added an application which allows you to easily use the GPIO pins of a Pi Zero connected via USB to a PC in applications using Scratch or Python. This makes it possible to run the same physical computing projects on the PC as you do on a Pi! Again, we’ll tell you more in a separate blog post this month.

Both of these applications are included as standard on the PC image, but not on the Raspbian image. You can run them on a Pi if you want — both can be installed from apt.

How to get the new versions

New images for both Raspbian and Debian versions are available from the Downloads page.

It is possible to update existing installations of both Raspbian and Debian versions. For Raspbian, this is easy: just open a terminal window and enter

sudo apt-get update&#13;
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Updating Raspbian on your Raspberry Pi

How to update to the latest version of Raspbian on your Raspberry Pi. Download Raspbian here: More information on the latest version of Raspbian: Buy a Raspberry Pi:

It is slightly more complex for the PC version, as the previous release was based around Debian Jessie. You will need to edit the files /etc/apt/sources.list and /etc/apt/sources.list.d/raspi.list, using sudo to do so. In both files, change every occurrence of the word “jessie” to “stretch”. When that’s done, do the following:

sudo apt-get update &#13;
sudo dpkg --force-depends -r libwebkitgtk-3.0-common&#13;
sudo apt-get -f install&#13;
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade&#13;
sudo apt-get install python3-thonny&#13;
sudo apt-get install sonic-pi=2.10.0~repack-rpt1+2&#13;
sudo apt-get install piserver&#13;
sudo apt-get install usbbootgui&#13;

At several points during the upgrade process, you will be asked if you want to keep the current version of a configuration file or to install the package maintainer’s version. In every case, keep the existing version, which is the default option. The update may take an hour or so, depending on your network connection.

As with all software updates, there is the possibility that something may go wrong during the process, which could lead to your operating system becoming corrupted. Therefore, we always recommend making a backup first.

Enjoy the new versions, and do let us know any feedback you have in the comments or on the forums!

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MagPi 64: get started with electronics

Hey folks, Rob here again! You get a double dose of me this month, as today marks the release of The MagPi 64. In this issue we give you a complete electronics starter guide to help you learn how to make circuits that connect to your Raspberry Pi!

The front cover of MagPi 64

MAGPI SIXTY-FOOUUUR!

Wires, wires everywhere!

In the electronics feature, we’ll teach you how to identify different components in circuit diagrams, we’ll explain what they do, and we’ll give you some basic wiring instructions so you can take your first steps. The feature also includes step-by-step tutorials on how to make a digital radio and a range-finder, meaning you can test out your new electronics skills immediately!

Christmas tutorials

Electronics are cool, but what else is in this issue? Well, we have exciting news about the next Google AIY Projects Vision kit, which forgoes audio for images, allowing you to build a smart camera with your Raspberry Pi.

We’ve also included guides on how to create your own text-based adventure game and a kaleidoscope camera. And, just in time for the festive season, there’s a tutorial for making a 3D-printed Pi-powered Christmas tree star. All this in The MagPi 64, along with project showcases, reviews, and much more!

Kaleido Cam

Using a normal web cam or the Raspberry Pi camera produce real time live kaleidoscope effects with the Raspberry Pi. This video shows the normal mode, along with an auto pre-rotate, and a horizontal and vertical flip.

Get The MagPi 64

Issue 64 is available today from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android and iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.

Subscribe for free goodies

Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine, and get some cool free stuff? If you take out a twelve-month print subscription to The MagPi, you’ll get a Pi Zero W, Pi Zero case, and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.

We hope you enjoy this issue!

Nintendo Sixty-FOOOOOOOOOOUR

Brandon gets an n64 for christmas 1998 and gets way too excited inquiries about usage / questions / comments? n64kids@gmail.com © n64kids.com

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Our brand-new Christmas resources

It’s never too early for Christmas-themed resources — especially when you want to make the most of them in your school or Code Club! So here’s the ever-wonderful Laura Sach with an introduction of our newest festive projects.

A cartoon of people singing Christmas carols - Raspberry Pi Christmas Resources

In the immortal words of Noddy Holder: “it’s Christmaaaaaaasssss!” Well, maybe it isn’t quite Christmas yet, but since the shops have been playing Mariah Carey on a loop since the last pumpkin lantern hit the bargain bin, you’re hopefully well prepared.

To get you in the mood with some festive fun, we’ve put together a selection of seasonal free resources for you. Each project has a difficulty level in line with our Digital Making Curriculum, so you can check which might suit you best. Why not try them out at your local Raspberry Jam, CoderDojo, or Code Club, at school, or even on a cold day at home with a big mug of hot chocolate?

Jazzy jumpers

A cartoon of someone remembering pairs of jumper designs - Raspberry Pi Christmas Resources

Jazzy jumpers (Creator level): as a child in the eighties, you’d always get an embarrassing and probably badly sized jazzy jumper at Christmas from some distant relative. Thank goodness the trend has gone hipster and dreadful jumpers are now cool!

This resource shows you how to build a memory game in Scratch where you must remember the colour and picture of a jazzy jumper before recreating it. How many jumpers can you successfully recall in a row?

Sense HAT advent calendar

A cartoon Sense HAT lit up in the design of a Christmas pudding - Raspberry Pi Christmas Resources

Sense HAT advent calendar (Builder level): put the lovely lights on your Sense HAT to festive use by creating an advent calendar you can open day by day. However, there’s strictly no cheating with this calendar — we teach you how to use Python to detect the current date and prevent would-be premature peekers!

Press the Enter key to open today’s door:

(Note: no chocolate will be dispensed from your Raspberry Pi. Sorry about that.)

Code a carol

A cartoon of people singing Christmas carols - Raspberry Pi Christmas Resources

Code a carol (Developer level): Have you ever noticed how much repetition there is in carols and other songs? This resource teaches you how to break down the Twelve days of Christmas tune into its component parts and code it up in Sonic Pi the lazy way: get the computer to do all the repetition for you!

No musical knowledge required — just follow our lead, and you’ll have yourself a rocking doorbell tune in no time!

Naughty and nice

A cartoon of Santa judging people by their tweets - Raspberry Pi Christmas Resources

Naughty and nice (Maker level): Have you been naughty or nice? Find out by using sentiment analysis on your tweets to see what sort of things you’ve been talking about throughout the year. For added fun, why not use your program on the Twitter account of your sibling/spouse/arch nemesis and report their level of naughtiness to Santa with an @ mention?

raspberry_pi is 65.5 percent NICE, with an accuracy of 0.9046692607003891

It’s Christmaaaaaasssss

With the festive season just around the corner, it’s time to get started on your Christmas projects! Whether you’re planning to run your Christmas lights via a phone app, install a home assistant inside an Elf on a Shelf, or work through our Christmas resources, we would like to see what you make. So do share your festive builds with us on social media, or by posting links in the comments.

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Raspberry Pi clusters come of age

In today’s guest post, Bruce Tulloch, CEO and Managing Director of BitScope Designs, discusses the uses of cluster computing with the Raspberry Pi, and the recent pilot of the Los Alamos National Laboratory 3000-Pi cluster built with the BitScope Blade.

Raspberry Pi cluster

High-performance computing and Raspberry Pi are not normally uttered in the same breath, but Los Alamos National Laboratory is building a Raspberry Pi cluster with 3000 cores as a pilot before scaling up to 40 000 cores or more next year.

That’s amazing, but why?

I was asked this question more than any other at The International Conference for High-Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis in Denver last week, where one of the Los Alamos Raspberry Pi Cluster Modules was on display at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Advanced Research Computing booth.

The short answer to this question is: the Raspberry Pi cluster enables Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to conduct exascale computing R&D.

The Pi cluster breadboard

Exascale refers to computing systems at least 50 times faster than the most powerful supercomputers in use today. The problem faced by LANL and similar labs building these things is one of scale. To get the required performance, you need a lot of nodes, and to make it work, you need a lot of R&D.

However, there’s a catch-22: how do you write the operating systems, networks stacks, launch and boot systems for such large computers without having one on which to test it all? Use an existing supercomputer? No — the existing large clusters are fully booked 24/7 doing science, they cost millions of dollars per year to run, and they may not have the architecture you need for your next-generation machine anyway. Older machines retired from science may be available, but at this scale they cost far too much to use and are usually very hard to maintain.

The Los Alamos solution? Build a “model supercomputer” with Raspberry Pi!

Think of it as a “cluster development breadboard”.

The idea is to design, develop, debug, and test new network architectures and systems software on the “breadboard”, but at a scale equivalent to the production machines you’re currently building. Raspberry Pi may be a small computer, but it can run most of the system software stacks that production machines use, and the ratios of its CPU speed, local memory, and network bandwidth scale proportionately to the big machines, much like an architect’s model does when building a new house. To learn more about the project, see the news conference and this interview with insideHPC at SC17.

Traditional Raspberry Pi clusters

Like most people, we love a good cluster! People have been building them with Raspberry Pi since the beginning, because it’s inexpensive, educational, and fun. They’ve been built with the original Pi, Pi 2, Pi 3, and even the Pi Zero, but none of these clusters have proven to be particularly practical.

That’s not stopped them being useful though! I saw quite a few Raspberry Pi clusters at the conference last week.

One tiny one that caught my eye was from the people at openio.io, who used a small Raspberry Pi Zero W cluster to demonstrate their scalable software-defined object storage platform, which on big machines is used to manage petabytes of data, but which is so lightweight that it runs just fine on this:

Raspberry Pi Zero cluster

There was another appealing example at the ARM booth, where the Berkeley Labs’ singularity container platform was demonstrated running very effectively on a small cluster built with Raspberry Pi 3s.

Raspberry Pi 3 cluster demo at a conference stall

My show favourite was from the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Center (EPCC): Nick Brown used a cluster of Pi 3s to explain supercomputers to kids with an engaging interactive application. The idea was that visitors to the stand design an aircraft wing, simulate it across the cluster, and work out whether an aircraft that uses the new wing could fly from Edinburgh to New York on a full tank of fuel. Mine made it, fortunately!

Raspberry Pi 3 cluster demo at a conference stall

Next-generation Raspberry Pi clusters

We’ve been building small-scale industrial-strength Raspberry Pi clusters for a while now with BitScope Blade.

When Los Alamos National Laboratory approached us via HPC provider SICORP with a request to build a cluster comprising many thousands of nodes, we considered all the options very carefully. It needed to be dense, reliable, low-power, and easy to configure and to build. It did not need to “do science”, but it did need to work in almost every other way as a full-scale HPC cluster would.

Some people argue Compute Module 3 is the ideal cluster building block. It’s very small and just as powerful as Raspberry Pi 3, so one could, in theory, pack a lot of them into a very small space. However, there are very good reasons no one has ever successfully done this. For a start, you need to build your own network fabric and I/O, and cooling the CM3s, especially when densely packed in a cluster, is tricky given their tiny size. There’s very little room for heatsinks, and the tiny PCBs dissipate very little excess heat.

Instead, we saw the potential for Raspberry Pi 3 itself to be used to build “industrial-strength clusters” with BitScope Blade. It works best when the Pis are properly mounted, powered reliably, and cooled effectively. It’s important to avoid using micro SD cards and to connect the nodes using wired networks. It has the added benefit of coming with lots of “free” USB I/O, and the Pi 3 PCB, when mounted with the correct air-flow, is a remarkably good heatsink.

When Gordon announced netboot support, we became convinced the Raspberry Pi 3 was the ideal candidate when used with standard switches. We’d been making smaller clusters for a while, but netboot made larger ones practical. Assembling them all into compact units that fit into existing racks with multiple 10 Gb uplinks is the solution that meets LANL’s needs. This is a 60-node cluster pack with a pair of managed switches by Ubiquiti in testing in the BitScope Lab:

60-node Raspberry Pi cluster pack

Two of these packs, built with Blade Quattro, and one smaller one comprising 30 nodes, built with Blade Duo, are the components of the Cluster Module we exhibited at the show. Five of these modules are going into Los Alamos National Laboratory for their pilot as I write this.

Bruce Tulloch at a conference stand with a demo of the Raspberry Pi cluster for LANL

It’s not only research clusters like this for which Raspberry Pi is well suited. You can build very reliable local cloud computing and data centre solutions for research, education, and even some industrial applications. You’re not going to get much heavy-duty science, big data analytics, AI, or serious number crunching done on one of these, but it is quite amazing to see just how useful Raspberry Pi clusters can be for other purposes, whether it’s software-defined networks, lightweight MaaS, SaaS, PaaS, or FaaS solutions, distributed storage, edge computing, industrial IoT, and of course, education in all things cluster and parallel computing. For one live example, check out Mythic Beasts’ educational compute cloud, built with Raspberry Pi 3.

For more information about Raspberry Pi clusters, drop by BitScope Clusters.

I’ll read and respond to your thoughts in the comments below this post too.

Editor’s note:

Here is a photo of Bruce wearing a jetpack. Cool, right?!

Bruce Tulloch wearing a jetpack

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Decrypt messages and calculate Pi: new OctaPi projects

Back in July, we collaborated with GCHQ to bring you two fantastic free resources: the first showed you how to build an OctaPi, a Raspberry Pi cluster computer. The second showed you how to use the cluster to learn about public key cryptography. Since then, we and GCHQ have been hard at work, and now we’re presenting two more exciting projects to make with your OctaPi!

A happy cartoon octopus holds a Raspberry Pi in each tentacle.

Maker level

These new free resources are at the Maker level of the Raspberry Pi Foundation Digital Making Curriculum — they are intended for learners with a fair amount of experience, introducing them to some intriguing new concepts.

Whilst both resources make use of the OctaPi in their final steps, you can work through the majority of the projects on any computer running Python 3.

Calculate Pi

A cartoon octopus is struggling to work out the value of Pi

3.14159…ummm…

Calculating Pi teaches you two ways of calculating the value of Pi with varying accuracy. Along the way, you’ll also learn how computers store numbers with a fractional part, why your computer can limit how accurate your calculation of Pi is, and how to distribute the calculation across the OctaPi cluster.

Brute-force Enigma

A cartoon octopus tries to break an Enigma code

Decrypt the message before time runs out!

Brute-force Enigma sends you back in time to take up the position of a WWII Enigma operator. Learn how to encrypt and decrypt messages using an Enigma machine simulated entirely in Python. Then switch roles and become a Bletchley Park code breaker — except this time, you’ve got a cluster computer on your side! You will use the OctaPi to launch a brute-force crypt attack on an Enigma-encrypted message, and you’ll gain an appreciation of just how difficult this decryption task was without computers.

Our own OctaPi

A GIF of the OctaPi cluster computer at Pi Towers
GCHQ has kindly sent us a fully assembled, very pretty OctaPi of our own to play with at Pi Towers — it even has eight snazzy Unicorn HATs which let you display light patterns and visualize simulations! Visitors of the Raspberry Jam at Pi Towers can have a go at running their own programs on the OctaPi, while we’ll be using it to continue to curate more free resources for you.

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The Official Projects Book volume 3 — out now

Hey folks, Rob from The MagPi here with some very exciting news! The third volume of the Official Raspberry Pi Projects Book is out right this second, and we’ve packed its 200 pages with the very best Raspberry Pi projects and guides!

Cover of The Official Projects Book volume 3

A peek inside the projects book

We start you off with a neat beginners guide to programming in Python,  walking you from the very basics all the way through to building the classic videogame Pong from scratch!

Table of contents of The Official Projects Book volume 3

Check out what’s inside!

Then we showcase some of the most inspiring projects from around the community, such as a camera for taking photos of the moon, a smart art installation, amazing arcade machines, and much more.

An article about the Apollo Pi project in The Official Projects Book volume 3

Emulate the Apollo mission computers on the Raspberry Pi

Next, we ease you into a series of tutorials that will help you get the most out of your Raspberry Pi. Among other things, you’ll be learning how to sync your Pi to Dropbox, use it to create a waterproof camera, and even emulate an Amiga.

We’ve also assembled a load of reviews to let you know what you should be buying if you want to extend your Pi experience.

A review of the Pimoroni Enviro pHAT in The Official Projects Book volume 3

Learn more about Pimoroni’s Enviro pHAT

I am extremely proud of what the entire MagPi team has put together here, and I know you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it.

How to get yours

In the UK, you can get your copy of the new Official Raspberry Pi Projects Book at WH Smith and all good newsagents today. In the US, print copies will be available in stores such as Barnes & Noble very soon.

Or order a copy from the Raspberry Pi Press store — before the end of Sunday 26 November, you can use the code BLACKFRIDAY to get 10% off your purchase!

There’s also the digital version, which you can get via The MagPi Android and iOS apps.

We think this new projects book is the perfect stocking filler, although we may be just a tad biased. Anyway, I hope you’ll love it!

Gif of Picard smiling at three children

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HackSpace magazine #1 is out now!

HackSpace magazine is finally here! Grab your copy of the new magazine for makers today, and try your hand at some new, exciting skills.

HackSpace magazine issue 1 cover

What is HackSpace magazine?

HackSpace magazine is the newest publication from the team behind The MagPi. Chock-full of amazing projects, tutorials, features, and maker interviews, HackSpace magazine brings together the makers of the world every month, with you — the community — providing the content.

HackSpace magazine is out now!

The new magazine for the modern maker is out now! Learn more at https://hsmag.cc HackSpace magazine is the new monthly magazine for people who love to make things and those who want to learn. Grab some duct tape, fire up a microcontroller, ready a 3D printer and hack the world around you!

Inside issue 1

Fancy smoking bacon with your very own cold smoker? How about protecting your home with a mini trebuchet for your front lawn? Or maybe you’d like to learn from awesome creator Becky Stern how to get paid for making the things you love? No matter whether it’s handheld consoles, robot prosthetics, Christmas projects, or, er, duct tape — whatever your maker passion, issue 1 is guaranteed to tick your boxes!



HackSpace magazine is packed with content from every corner of the maker world: from welding to digital making, and from woodwork to wearables. And whatever you enjoy making, we want to see it! So as you read through this first issue, imagine your favourite homemade projects on our pages, then make that a reality by emailing us the details via hackspace@raspberrypi.org.

Get your copy

You can grab issue 1 of HackSpace magazine right now from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and independent newsagents. 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 — ask your local newsagent whether they’ll be getting HackSpace magazine. Alternatively, you can get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS apps. And don’t forget, as with all our publications, a free PDF of HackSpace magazine is available from release day.

We’re also offering money-saving subscriptions — find details on the the magazine website. And if you’re a subscriber of The MagPi, your free copy of HackSpace magazine is on its way, with details of a super 50% discount on subscriptions! Could this be the Christmas gift you didn’t know you wanted?

Share your makes and thoughts

Make sure to follow HackSpace magazine on Facebook and Twitter, or email the team at hackspace@raspberrypi.org to tell us about your projects and share your thoughts about issue 1. We’ve loved creating this new magazine for the maker community, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

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What do you want your button to do?

Here at Raspberry Pi, we know that getting physical with computing is often a catalyst for creativity. Building a simple circuit can open up a world of making possibilities! This ethos of tinkering and invention is also being used in the classroom to inspire a whole new generation of makers too, and here is why.

The all-important question

Physical computing provides a great opportunity for creative expression: the button press! By explaining how a button works, how to build one with a breadboard attached to computer, and how to program the button to work when it’s pressed, you can give learners young and old all the conceptual skills they need to build a thing that does something. But what do they want their button to do? Have you ever asked your students or children at home? I promise it will be one of the most mindblowing experiences you’ll have if you do.

A button. A harmless, little arcade button.

Looks harmless now, but put it into the hands of a child and see what happens!

Amy will want her button to take a photo, Charlie will want his button to play a sound, Tumi will want her button to explode TNT in Minecraft, Jack will want their button to fire confetti out of a cannon, and James Robinson will want his to trigger silly noises (doesn’t he always?)! Idea generation is the inherent gift that every child has in abundance. As educators and parents, we’re always looking to deeply engage our young people in the subject matter we’re teaching, and they are never more engaged than when they have an idea and want to implement it. Way back in 2012, I wanted my button to print geeky sayings:

Geek Gurl Diaries Raspberry Pi Thermal Printer Project Sneak Peek!

A sneak peek at the finished Geek Gurl Diaries ‘Box of Geek’. I’ve been busy making this for a few weeks with some help from friends. Tutorial to make your own box coming soon, so keep checking the Geek Gurl Diaries Twitter, facebook page and channel.

What are the challenges for this approach in education?

Allowing this kind of free-form creativity and tinkering in the classroom obviously has its challenges for teachers, especially those confined to rigid lesson structures, timings, and small classrooms. The most common worry I hear from teachers is “what if they ask a question I can’t answer?” Encouraging this sort of creative thinking makes that almost an inevitability. How can you facilitate roughly 30 different projects simultaneously? The answer is by using those other computational and transferable thinking skills:

  • Problem-solving
  • Iteration
  • Collaboration
  • Evaluation

Clearly specifying a problem, surveying the tools available to solve it (including online references and external advice), and then applying them to solve the problem is a hugely important skill, and this is a great opportunity to teach it.

A girl plays a button reaction game at a Raspberry Pi event

Press ALL the buttons!

Hands-off guidance

When we train teachers at Picademy, we group attendees around themes that have come out of the idea generation session. Together they collaborate on an achievable shared goal. One will often sketch something on a whiteboard, decomposing the problem into smaller parts; then the group will divide up the tasks. Each will look online or in books for tutorials to help them with their step. I’ve seen this behaviour in student groups too, and it’s very easy to facilitate. You don’t need to be the resident expert on every project that students want to work on.

The key is knowing where to guide students to find the answers they need. Curating online videos, blogs, tutorials, and articles in advance gives you the freedom and confidence to concentrate on what matters: the learning. We have a number of physical computing projects that use buttons, linked to our curriculum for learners to combine inputs and outputs to solve a problem. The WhooPi cushion and GPIO music box are two of my favourites.

A Raspberry Pi and button attached to a computer display

Outside of formal education, events such as Raspberry Jams, CoderDojos, CAS Hubs, and hackathons are ideal venues for seeking and receiving support and advice.

Cross-curricular participation

The rise of the global maker movement, I think, is in response to abstract concepts and disciplines. Children are taught lots of concepts in isolation that aren’t always relevant to their lives or immediate environment. Digital making provides a unique and exciting way of bridging different subject areas, allowing for cross-curricular participation. I’m not suggesting that educators should throw away all their schemes of work and leave the full direction of the computing curriculum to students. However, there’s huge value in exposing learners to the possibilities for creativity in computing. Creative freedom and expression guide learning, better preparing young people for the workplace of tomorrow.

So…what do you want your button to do?

Hello World

Learn more about today’s subject, and read further articles regarding computer science in education, in Hello World magazine issue 1.

Read Hello World issue 1 for more…

UK-based educators can subscribe to Hello World to receive a hard copy delivered for free to their doorstep, while the PDF is available for free to everyone via the Hello World website.

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Ultimate 3D printer control with OctoPrint

Control and monitor your 3D printer remotely with a Raspberry Pi and OctoPrint.

Timelapse of OctoPrint Ornament

Printed on a bq Witbox STL file can be found here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:191635 OctoPrint is located here: http://www.octoprint.org

3D printing

Whether you have a 3D printer at home or use one at your school or local makerspace, it’s fair to assume you’ve had a failed print or two in your time. Filament knotting or running out, your print peeling away from the print bed — these are common issues for all 3D printing enthusiasts, and they can be costly if they’re discovered too late.

OctoPrint

OctoPrint is a free open-source software, created and maintained by Gina Häußge, that performs a multitude of useful 3D printing–related tasks, including remote control of your printer, live video, and data collection.

The OctoPrint logo

Control and monitoring

To control the print process, use OctoPrint on a Raspberry Pi connected to your 3D printer. First, ensure a safe uninterrupted run by using the software to restrict who can access the printer. Then, before starting your print, use the web app to work on your STL file. The app also allows you to reposition the print head at any time, as well as pause or stop printing if needed.

Live video streaming

Since OctoPrint can stream video of your print as it happens, you can watch out for any faults that may require you to abort and restart. Proud of your print? Record the entire process from start to finish and upload the time-lapse video to your favourite social media platform.

OctoPrint software graphic user interface screenshot

Data capture

Octoprint records real-time data, such as the temperature, giving you another way to monitor your print to ensure a smooth, uninterrupted process. Moreover, the records will help with troubleshooting if there is a problem.

OctoPrint software graphic user interface screenshot

Print the Millenium Falcon

OK, you can print anything you like. However, this design definitely caught our eye this week.

3D-Printed Fillenium Malcon (Timelapse)

This is a Timelapse of my biggest print project so far on my own designed/built printer. It’s 500x170x700(mm) and weights 3 Kilograms of Filament.

You can support the work of Gina and OctoPrint by visiting her Patreon account and following OctoPrint on Twitter, Facebook, or G+. And if you’ve set up a Raspberry Pi to run OctoPrint, or you’ve created some cool Pi-inspired 3D prints, make sure to share them with us on our own social media channels.

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Prepare to run a Code Club on FutureLearn

Prepare to run a Code Club with our newest free online course, available now on FutureLearn!

FutureLearn: Prepare to Run a Code Club

Ready to launch! Our free FutureLearn course ‘Prepare to Run a Code Club’ starts next week and you can sign up now: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/code-club

Code Club

As of today, more than 10000 Code Clubs run in 130 countries, delivering free coding opportunities to approximately 150000 children across the globe.

A child absorbed in a task at a Code Club

As an organisation, Code Club provides free learning resources and training materials to supports the ever-growing and truly inspiring community of volunteers and educators who set up and run Code Clubs.

FutureLearn

Today we’re launching our latest free online course on FutureLearn, dedicated to training and supporting new Code Club volunteers. It will give you practical guidance on all things Code Club, as well as a taste of beginner programming!

Split over three weeks and running for 3–4 hours in total, the course provides hands-on advice and tips on everything you need to know to run a successful, fun, and educational club.

“Week 1 kicks off with advice on how to prepare to start a Code Club, for example which hardware and software are needed. Week 2 focusses on how to deliver Code Club sessions, with practical tips on helping young people learn and an easy taster coding project to try out. In the final week, the course looks at interesting ideas to enrich and extend club sessions.”
— Sarah Sherman-Chase, Code Club Participation Manager

The course is available wherever you live, and it is completely free — sign up now!

If you’re already a volunteer, the course will be a great refresher, and a chance to share your insights with newcomers. Moreover, it is also useful for parents and guardians who wish to learn more about Code Club.

Your next step

Interested in learning more? You can start the course today by visiting FutureLearn. And to find out more about Code Clubs in your country, visit Code Club UK or Code Club International.

Code Club partners from across the globe gathered together for a group photo at the International Meetup

We love hearing your Code Club stories! If you’re a volunteer, are in the process of setting up a club, or are inspired to learn more, share your story in the comments below or via social media, making sure to tag @CodeClub and @CodeClubWorld.

You might also be interested in our other free courses on the FutureLearn platform, including Teaching Physical Computing with Raspberry Pi and Python and Teaching Programming in Primary Schools.

 

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Pip: digital creation in your pocket from Curious Chip

Get your hands on Pip, the handheld Raspberry Pi–based device for aspiring young coders and hackers from Curious Chip.

A GIF of Pip - Curious Chip - Pip handheld device - Raspberry Pi

Pip is a handheld gaming console from Curios Chip which you can now back on Kickstarter. Using the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, Pip allows users to code, hack, and play wherever they are.

We created Pip so that anyone can tinker with technology. From beginners to those who know more — Pip makes it easy, simple, and fun!

For gaming

Pip’s smart design may well remind you of a certain handheld gaming console released earlier this year. With its central screen and detachable side controllers, Pip has a size and shape ideal for gaming.

A GIF of Pip - Curious Chip - Pip handheld device - Raspberry Pi

Those who have used a Raspberry Pi with the Raspbian OS might be familiar with Minecraft Pi, a variant of the popular Minecraft game created specifically for Pi users to play and hack for free. Users of Pip will be able to access Minecraft Pi from the portable device and take their block-shaped creations with them wherever they go.

And if that’s not enough, Pip’s Pi brain allows coders to create their own games using Scratch, in addition to giving access a growing library of games in Curious Chip’s online arcade.

Digital making

Pip’s GPIO pins are easily accessible, so that you can expand upon your digital making skills with physical computing projects. Grab your Pip and a handful of jumper leads, and you will be able to connect and control components such as lights, buttons, servomotors, and more!

A smiling girl with Pip and a laptop

You can also attach any of the range of HAT add-on boards available on the market, such as our own Sense HAT, or ones created by Pimoroni, Adafruit, and others. And if you’re looking to learn a new coding language, you’re in luck: Pip supports Python, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Lua, and PHP.

Maker Pack and add-ons

Backers can also pledge their funds for additional hardware, such as the Maker Pack, an integrated camera, or a Pip Breadboard Kit.

PipHAT and Breadboard add-ons - Curious Chip - Pip handheld device - Raspberry Pi

The breadboard and the optional PipHAT are also compatible with any Raspberry Pi 2 and 3. Nice!

Curiosity from Curious Chip

Users of Pip can program their device via Curiosity, a tool designed specifically for this handheld device.

Pip’s programming tool is called Curiosity, and it’s hosted on Pip itself and accessed via WiFi from any modern web browser, so there’s no software to download and install. Curiosity allows Pip to be programmed using a number of popular programming languages, including JavaScript, Python, Lua, PHP, and HTML5. Scratch-inspired drag-and-drop block programming is also supported with our own Google Blockly–based editor, making it really easy to access all of Pip’s built-in functionality from a simple, visual programming language.

Back the project

If you’d like to back Curious Chip and bag your own Pip, you can check out their Kickstarter page here. And if you watch their promo video closely, you may see a familiar face from the Raspberry Pi community.

Are you planning on starting your own Raspberry Pi-inspired crowd-funded campaign? Then be sure to tag us on social media. We love to see what the community is creating for our little green (or sometimes blue) computer.

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