Parkinson’s disease body illusion

Transports is an interactive installation from Analogue, a theatre/art group, sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, which creates the illusion that the viewer is experiencing Parkinson’s symptoms. As in the rubber hand illusion, the mind is tricked into believing that the user’s hand is the hand shown in some point-of-view video; while a glove with motors makes them feel the tremors associated with the disease.

The whole setup is controlled by a Raspberry Pi. The installation takes the user through a number of everyday tasks from the perspective of Andrew, a man in his thirties with Parkinson’s, who is about to give a speech at a friend’s wedding. Andrew’s experience is informed by a body of first-person data that Analogue collected from the blogs of people dealing with Parkinson’s, and interviews with patients.

This installation isn’t being exhibited as public art at the moment; instead, it’s being used to raise awareness and promote empathy among health professionals and carers. Psychology students are also using it; and there are plans to refine the whole thing by using Oculus Rift or a similar VR headset, and by shrinking the apparatus on the glove.

You can read more about Transports at Analogue’s site, or at the New Scientist.

Northern Ireland’s first Raspberry Jams

Liz: Andrew Mulholland is a first-year undergraduate student at Queen’s College Belfast, and the overall winner of 2014’s Talk Talk Digital Hero award. We’ve known him for a few years (he did work experience with us this summer – he created the Grandpa Scarer learning resource for us with Matt Timmons-Brown).

Andrew’s been setting up events to introduce other young people to computing for some years now. He‘s recently been running the very first Raspberry Jams in Northern Ireland, and is doing a lot of computing outreach with local schools. I asked him how the kids who’d attended the Jams had found the experience, and he sent me the blog post below. Well done Andrew – it’s brilliant to see how much fun an introduction to computing can be. You’re doing an amazing job.

Northern Ireland November Raspberry Jam

On Saturday 8th November 20+ soon-to-be Raspberry Pi enthusiasts arrived at Farset Labs for the 6th Northern Ireland Raspberry Jam.

farsettjam

September, NI Raspberry Jam 5

This months main activities? Sonic Pi 2 and Minecraft Pi!

At the Jam we also have all the previous months’ activities printed out, so that if the kids want to try something else out, they are more than welcome to.

There are activities ranging from Sonic Pi, to Minecraft Pi, to physical computing projects like creating a reaction timer game in Scratch GPIO, along with quite a few others.

asd

Lots of cool stuff to play with!

I asked a few of the kids at the jam to write down what they thought.

haley

Haley (11) having way too much fun hacking someone else’s Minecraft Pi game!

Haley:

“It was my first Raspberry Jam and I was quite nervous when I walked in but one of the mentors came over and introduced himself to me and explained what we would be getting up to. He found me a chair and showed me how to connect all the wires together and by the end of the Jam I was laughing my head off! I really enjoyed learning how to make music using Sonic Pi. I made the tune Frère Jacques. My favourite part was learning how to code while playing Minecraft. Andrew told me I should learn how to code because I had never done it before. I used a programming language called Python to hack others Minecraft games and to teleport them to a random place. I heard another kid start exclaiming after teleporting her several times, initially she had no idea it was me! Andrew and Libby were very supportive the whole day and I learnt a massive amount thanks to them. It was great fun!”

Apparently Haley enjoyed her first Raspberry Jam.

Apparently Haley enjoyed her first Raspberry Jam.

 Katie:

“I heard about the Raspberry Jam because one of the mentors volunteers at my school and the Jam was announced in Assembly as part of EU Coding Week. My friend Rachel and I decided to give it a go. I didn’t know anything about a Raspberry Pi and had no idea what to expect before I went but Andrew and the mentors have taught me loads and are very encouraging. I have just done my second Raspberry Jam and I loved it! I created a piece of music using Sonic Pi, played/hacked Minecraft and played with an LEDBorg in Scratch GPIO! Also we got doughnuts and got to make use of Farset Lab’s huge blackboard! It is the biggest blackboard I’ve ever seen. I don’t have a favorite part because everything I did was great fun and everybody was helpful. I definitely suggest anyone my age giving it a go!”

Rachel and Katie creating music with Sonic-Pi 2

Rachel and Katie creating music with Sonic-Pi 2

Rachel

“I had a great time at my second Raspberry Jam at the weekend. The thing I enjoyed the most was learning with Scratch with the GPIO pins. This is something my school doesn’t teach so I don’t get the chance to do anything like this normally. It was great fun programming the LEDs to change different colours using a program I wrote.

The Raspberry Jam is such an amazing workshop and I am very grateful to Andrew and Libby for running it! I can’t wait till the December Jam!!”

We didn’t just have young people at the NI Raspberry Jam this month! The Jam is open to people of all ages, coding knowledge and backgrounds.

Never to old to play Minecraft! John (70) getting taught how to play Minecraft Pi by Isaac (10)

Never too old to play Minecraft! John (70) getting taught how to play Minecraft Pi by Isaac (10)

A parent:

“These events are really great. It lets the kids experiment with technology that they wouldn’t otherwise have got the opportunity to use in school. Most schools in Northern Ireland don’t seem to offer any coding opportunities for the kids so stuff like this is essential. And Andrew and Libby are great, giving up their Saturdays to come and teach these kids and my son!”

Next month is the Christmas special Jam! We have some secret new activities planned and of course, lots of food!

Some awesome cupcakes baked by @baker_geek for last months Jam.

Some awesome cupcakes baked by @baker_geek for last months Jam.

Want to come along to the next NI Raspberry Jam?

Northern Ireland Raspberry Jam is on the 2nd Saturday of every month with NI Raspberry Jam 7 (Christmas special) being on the 12th December at Farset Labs, Belfast.

Tickets are free! (Although we ask for a £3 donation towards the venue if able to).

The event is especially aimed at complete beginners to the Raspberry Pi or people just starting out, but we do have some more complex projects and challenges for you if you are an expert.

Special thanks to Libby (16) for helping me with this months Jam, and to Farset Labs for basically letting us take over the building for a Saturday afternoon!

You know when you are onto something good when you overhear one of the kids on their way out saying: “Daddy, daddy, can I borrow your phone to book next month’s tickets before they all go?”

Interested in finding a Raspberry Jam near you? Check out our Jams page!

A collection of Pis

Liz: Today’s guest post comes from Alex Eames, who runs the rather wonderful RasPi.TV. He’s been furtling through his drawers, and has discovered he owns a surprising number of Raspberry Pi variants. Thanks Alex! 

Now we have the A+, I thought it’d be a good time to celebrate its ‘birth’ by having a rundown of the various mass-produced models of Raspberry Pi.

I had a look through my collection and was somewhat surprised to see that I have 10 different variants of Raspberry Pi now. There is one I don’t have, but more about that later. Here’s the family photo. You can click it for a higher resolution version.

Raspberry_Pi_Family_A-annotated-15001

Rev 1 Model B

In row 1, column 1 we have the Rev 1 model B. Although I was up early on 29th February 2012, I didn’t get one of the first 10,000 Pis produced. This was delivered in May 2012. It’s a Farnell variant (I have an RS one as well, but it does full-time duty as my weather station). This was the original type of Pi to hit the market. It has 256 Mb RAM and polyfuses on the USB.

Rev 1 Model B – With Links

In row 1, column 2 you’ll see a slightly later variant of Rev 1 model B. This one has 0 Ohm links instead of polyfuses. It helped to overcome some of the voltage drop issues associated with the original Rev 1, but it introduced the “hot-swapping USB devices will now reboot your Pi” issue, which was fixed in the B+.

Rev 2 Model B (China)

Row 2, column 1. Here we have an early Rev 2 Pi. This one was manufactured in China. It originally had a sticker on saying “made in China”, but I took it off. This one was bought some time around October 2012. The Rev 2 model B has 512 Mb RAM (apart from a few early ones which had 256 Mb), mounting holes and two headers called P5 and P6.

Rev 2 Model B (UK)

Row 2, column 2. This is a much later Rev 2 Pi, made at SONY in Wales, UK.

Chinese Red Pi Rev 2 Model B

Row 3, column 1. This is one of the Red Pis made especially for the Chinese market. They are not allowed to be sold in the UK, but if you import one yourself that’s not a problem. It is manufactured to a less stringent spec than the ones at SONY, and is not EMC tested. Therefore it bears no CE/FCC marks.

Limited Edition Blue Pi Rev 2 Model B

Row 3, column 2. I’m not going to go into how I got hold of this. Suffice it to say it was not at all easy, but no laws were broken, and nobody got hurt. RS had 1000 of these made in March 2013 as a special limited anniversary edition to use as prizes and awards to people who’ve made a special contribution to education etc. I know of about 5 or 6 people who have them. (At least two of those people traded for them.) They are extremely hard to get. They come in a presentation box with a certificate. I have #0041. Other than their blueness, they are a Rev 2 model B Pi.

Model A

Row 1, Column 3 is a model A. The PCB is identical to the Rev 2 model B, but it has only one USB port, no ethernet port, no USB/ethernet chip and 256 Mb RAM. The $25 model A was released in February 2013. On the day I got mine, the day after launch, I made a quick and dirty “I’ve got mine first” video, part of which ended up on BBC Click. The model A sold about 100k units. Demand for it was outstripped by the model B, although at one point CPC was offering a brilliant deal on a camera module and model A for £25 (I snagged a couple of those).

Compute Module

Row 2, column 3 is the Compute Module, sitting atop the Compute Module development board. This was launched 23 June 2014 as a way to enable industrial use of the Pi in a more convenient form factor. The module is made so it fits in a SODIMM connector and is essentially the BCM 2835, its 512 Mb RAM and 4 Gb of eMMC flash memory with all available GPIO ports broken out. It costs $30 when bought by the hundred.

Model B+

Row 3, column 3 is the model B+. This was launched on 14 July 2014 and was a major change in form factor. Rounded corners, corner mount holes, 40 GPIO pins, 4 USB ports, improved power circuitry and a complete layout redesign. The B+ was announced as the ‘final revision’ of the B. So it would appear that it’s going to be with us for some time.

Model A+

In row 4, all by itself we have the shiny new Raspberry Pi A+, launched 10 November 2014. It’s essentially the same as a B+ with the USB end cut off. It’s the smallest, lightest, cheapest, and least power-hungry Pi of all so far. It’s 23g, $20 and uses just half a Watt at idle.

So Which One Don’t I Have?

I don’t have a Rev 2 256 MB variant. If you have one and would like to trade or sell it to me, I’d be happy to hear from you (alex AT raspi.tv).

I believe there is also now a red Chinese B+ I’ve not got one of those, but it’s only a matter of time. I wonder if there will be a red A+ at some point too? We Just Don’t Know!

 

 

MagPi issue 28

I’m in a bit of a rush today; we’re all at the factory in Wales where the Raspberry Pi is built to show the team that works in Cambridge how to make a Pi. So I’ll hand over to Team MagPi, who have just released their 28th edition of the free monthly Raspberry Pi magazine, written by Raspberry Pi fans for Raspberry Pi fans.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 14.17.27

Editor Ash Stone says:

This month’s Issue is packed with hardware and programming articles.  We are pleased to present the first article in an OpenCV (open source computer vision) image recognition software series by Derek Campbell.  The robot that Derek used to test the software configuration is shown on this month’s cover.

Expanding the I/O possibilities of the Raspberry Pi is often a first step of electronics projects.  This time, Dougie Lawson presents a review of the Arduberry board from Dexter Industries.  This little board provides an ideal microcontroller interface for more complicated electronics projects.  This month’s hardware articles are rounded off by Karl-Ludwig’s third BitScope article, which includes examples of preamplifier circuits and associated test and measurement.

The Raspberry Pi provides the opportunity to run many different software applications.  Voice over IP (VoIP) allows telephone calls to be carried over an internet connection.  Walbarto Abad continues his mini-series by describing how to setup an Asterisk VoIP server.

The second application article this month continues the discussion of git (distributed version control system).  Git was originally produced for Linux kernel development, but is now a mainstay of many different development projects and has been adopted by several schools too.  Alec Clews leads us through his second tutorial on the subject.

This month’s programming article demonstrates how to build an arcade game using FUZE BASIC.  Jon Silvera includes instructions, code and images to build a horizontally scrolling game.

We are on the look out for more articles at all levels and on all subjects.  If you are interested in submitting an article, please get in touch with us by emailing articles@themagpi.com.

If you have any other comments, you can find us on Twitter (@TheMagP1) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/MagPiMagazine) too.

 

 

Gertbot is here!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been whetting your appetite for something new from Gert.

How is Gert performing this magic? He’s built a new add-on for your Raspberry Pi: the GertBot. GertBot is a motor controller and power management board, which you can buy today from Farnell or from The Pi Hut.

gertbot_500x406

What makes it so special? Gert has put an ARM cortex-M3 processor on board, which handles all the real-time requirements, so the Pi’s processor is left free to get on with other things – this means you only need to send high-level commands to the GertBot, and the board handles all the rest for you.

This is a powerful piece of kit. While Gert expects most of you to use it for driving motors and building robots, he notes that you can also use it to drive other things: using all three RGB channels, for example, your Pi with the GertBot attached can operate 30,000 led lights. Which should be enough for anybody.

And, of course, there’s the ability to generate DCC signals, which will make model train enthusiasts pink-cheeked and happy.

Gert says:

It has four full H-bridges which can drive 2.5A each. Thus one board can control four brushed motors or two stepper motors. If that is not enough you can cascade up to four board which gives you sixteen brushed motors or eight stepper motors or any combination in between. Additionally the board can control model trains as it supports the DCC standard.

As to software: it comes with a debug and development GUI, C-drivers, Python drivers, and example code showing how to use the drivers, all available in source code. Hop over to www.gertbot.com where you can download all the code and can also see a number of videos demonstrating the board’s capabilities. The board is distributed by Farnell and the Pi-hut.

Gert sits just across the room from me, where he plays with trains and stepper motors. When I loaded this video this morning, everybody looked to see if he was hiding under my desk. Over to Gert, who will show you how to set up GertBot in three minutes from a standing start.

Example programs, utilities, and more are all available at the GertBot site. As with all Gertenproducts, there’s a full and detailed user manual available for download too. If you can’t get enough of Gert’s mellifluous Dutch tones, you’ll also find more example video.

Thinking of buying one? What would you use it for?

Jacquard looms, and a Pi simulator

I’m not alone at Pi Towers (hi Lorna! Hi Rachel!) in being a textiles nerd. There’s a 200-year-old cushion made of strips of worn-out Regency clothes (which nobody is allowed to sit on) in my living room; Mandarin sleeves I’ve rescued from rummage bins in Hong Kong and framed on the walls, and a rotation of vintage wedding kimonos and obis that hang up at the end of the hall. I have a theory about textile art being considered domestic, female art – and therefore, for cultural reasons I don’t care for very much, deprecated in comparison with other sorts of art, and a hell of a lot cheaper per square foot than paintings or prints in frames. If you’ve got a big wall to decorate, you could do a lot worse than hitting eBay and wallowing in kimonos.

What’s all this got to do with Raspberry Pi?

In case you hadn’t already noticed, I am also a computing history nerd. Last weekend I spent several hours in the Fashion Museum in Bath, thinking tranquil thoughts about Spitalfields silk, Jacquard looms, and the way some of these beautiful textiles relate directly to the history of programming. The Jacquard process for weaving was invented in the early 1800s; and we get excited about them because Jacquard looms were the very first programmable machines used in manufacturing.

paisley shawl

This shawl, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, was woven in 1840 on a Jacquard loom. Click through for a zoomable image; the detail is phenomenal.

Punchcards were threaded together and fed into the loom, each card full of holes representing one line of weaving. It was a flexible system: your chain of cards could be as long or as short as was needed, and to weave a different pattern on the loom, you could simply swap out the set of cards. Imposing that flexibility on a mechanical system was a completely novel concept, and those punch cards were a first step on the road to what became the computer programming that all those of you with Raspberry Pis are familiar with. (Charles Babbage used the Jacquard punch card concept around forty years after the invention of the Jacquard process to store programs in the Analytical Engine – and they’re still not obsolete. Those American voting machines that cause so much controversy were still employing punch cards in the 2012 election.)

Jacquard loom and cards

Punch cards in use on a Jacquard loom

It can be hard to visualise the relationship between the holes in the cards you can see above, and the individual lines that create the pattern on the brocade you can see next to them. So Macclesfield Silk Museum (which I have only just found out about, and am going to make a beeline for next time I’m in Cheshire) put a Raspberry Pi to work to make this demonstration model for museum visitors.

Today, textile professionals can buy specialised software for designing and producing Jacquard fabrics: a direct line of descent from Joseph Marie Jacquard’s two-century old innovation. (Check out this blog post from Florence, where you can see some modern examples of fabrics woven using modern Jacquard software.)

Joseph Marie Jacquard - a portrait woven in very fine silk on a Jacquard loom in 1839. 24,000 punch cards, each with 1050 positions, were used to weave this portrait, which is in the collection of the Science Museum in London.

Joseph Marie Jacquard – a portrait woven in very fine silk on a Jacquard loom in 1839. 24,000 punch cards, each with 1050 positions, were used to weave this portrait, which is in the collection of the Science Museum in London.

Next time you’re out shopping for curtain fabric, or buying intricately woven cushion covers, step back for a moment and think about the computing history you’re holding in your hands. Computing’s everywhere.

Adventures in Minecraft

Martin O’Hanlon and David Whale will be familiar to many readers of this blog, whether from the excellent Raspberry Pi and Minecraft resources they’ve authored or from their work with schools, code clubs and Raspberry Jams. Now they’ve teamed up to write a fantastic new book, hot off the press this week.

Adventures in Minecraft

Adventures in Minecraft teaches young people to customise their Minecraft world with amazing structures and new gaming experiences, developing Python programming skills along the way. Nine self-contained projects introduce readers with no programming experience to the basics and then move on to increasingly sophisticated mods, and eventually to controlling and sensing real-world objects from within Minecraft!

Made for Minecraft Pi or for Minecraft on a PC or Apple Mac, the book is written especially for 11-15-year-olds, although we’ve already come across rave reviews from both younger and older readers. It has a companion website full of extras and video tutorials, as well as a mini-site created by Martin, with a forum where readers can discuss their projects and ask for help. Martin has also made a video montage of some of the adventures in the book:

Carrie Anne Philbin, our Education Pioneer, says, “It’s excellent that kids have a dedicated, full-colour book like this to help them get into programming with Minecraft, and it will make a great companion to Adventures in Raspberry Pi!”

You can buy Adventures in Minecraft now from Amazon and other book sellers. Why not treat the Minecraft fan in your life?

Let the BattlePi commence…

Recently I visited the University of York Computer Science department for the second year running to see the Raspberry Pi being used to great effect on the new intake of students. Last year I visited to judge Blue Pi Thinking, and since it was such a great success they decided to repeat the exercise this year.

The students are sent a Raspberry Pi before they come to university, with a special build and a document that describes the challenge.  There are three main reasons for doing this. The first is to give the students a common computing platform that they can use throughout the year to base different projects/assignments on. Secondly, the students will learn a great amount and will kick start their education; and finally it becomes a real social event for the students to get together (some actually help each other out) with beer and competition (which of course go hand in hand!)

There are two elements to the challenge and the students can choose either (or both or neither!) The first is Blue Pi Thinking, where the challenge is to develop something creative; the second is BattlePi.

battlepi2

BattlePi is a game of battleships played automatically by the Raspberry Pi with a server through which two Raspberry Pis can communicate. The students are given the (well commented Python) software which initially just chooses random positions to make shots at. The student then has to modify the python code to implement better AI in both firing position and ship placement. At the end of freshers’ week the students all come together (with beer of course) to test their creations.

battlepi3

The Blue Pi Thinking creative competition whose aim is basically to create something was run as a judged event. The following are examples of projects that were created:

  • Playing card recognition. From first principles, the student had captured a picture of a playing card, thresholded it, segmented it to find the pips and count them (OK, it doesn’t work with face cards yet!) Then they apply an edge following algorithm to the pip to work out if it’s a heart, club, diamond or spade. I’d just like to say… Awesome!
  • Ultrasonic theremin. This student had taken a standard ultrasonic transducer and used it to create a theremin, again of some awe.
  • Raspberry Pi mosaic creator. This project was another very complex algorithm, which takes a picture on his Android mobile phone using his own app and transmits it to the Raspberry Pi. Then the Pi calculates the best match from a set of images for small sections of the image based on a calculated ‘average’ colour for the region. Then the software makes up the final image as a mosaic of the select set of images, and transmits it back to the phone!

Throughout the year the students will be using their Raspberry Pis to continue their education, and help develop next years BattlePi competition. Will Smith and Emma Hogson, who are in charge of undergraduate admissions have offered Raspberry Pi their complete BattlePi materials including all the software and instructions so we can give it to other universities…something we’re looking into with great interest.

May the worldwide BattlePi commence – watch this space!

WiFi-controlled pottery kiln

I’ve always fantasised about having a kiln in the garage (Eben wants a pick and place machine; we need another garage). Kilns, though, are expensive. And where do you start if you want to refurbish a broken or old one safely?

James Gao has an answer, and it’s got a Raspberry Pi in it. (Well, not in it, but attached very firmly to it.

kiln

James’s girlfriend is an enthusiastic potter, and James is an equally enthusiastic hacker. They came together and made beautiful music a kiln. The project is based around an old electric kiln, which James built holes into to convert it into a propane-fired updraft kiln. A Raspberry Pi is hooked up to a thermocouple and a stepper motor that controls the propane regulator. James 3d-printed gears and a clamp to operate the regulator/motor setup.

stepperpropane

Stepper motor and propane regulator

The kiln operates via a PID, which controls the temperature taking closed-loop feedback from the thermocouple to the regulator. Adjustments can be made remotely; the kiln controller system has WiFi. James has a really interesting series of photographs, with explanatory text and some examples of test firings, over at imgur; he also answers questions about the project at Reddit.

Results of two test firings

Results of two test firings – the variously floppy things are pyrometric cones, used to measure temperature in different parts of the kiln.

There are so many reasons I love this project. It’s a wonderful demonstration of what can be done with no specialised experience (James had never worked with kilns before starting this project, and neither he nor his girlfriend had any knowledge about firing pottery). The ingenuity on show is just brilliant (3d-printed gears!), the pottery that comes out of the end is immensely satisfying – and face it; there’s something very thrilling about flames. On top of all this, the whole project came in at less than $200.

All James’s control software, along with a BOM, is open-source, and available on GitHub.

Raspberry Pi Model A+ on sale now at $20

When we announced the Model B+ back in July, we said that we’d also be producing a lower-cost variant, analogous to the original Model A. Since then, James has been beavering away, and today we’re pleased to announce the release of the Raspberry Pi Model A+ at a new low price of $20.

Smaller, lower-power and with added Andrew Jackson

Smaller, more energy-efficient and crazy-affordable

Like the Model A, the Model A+ uses the BCM2835 application processor and has 256MB RAM, but it is significantly smaller (65mm in length, versus 86mm for the Model A), consumes less power, and inherits the many improvements that we made to the Model B+, including:

  • More GPIO. The GPIO header has grown to 40 pins. The Model A+ is compatible with the HAT standard for add-on boards.
  • Micro SD. The old friction-fit SD card socket has been replaced with a much nicer push-push micro SD version.
  • Better audio. The audio circuit incorporates a dedicated low-noise power supply.

Bokeh dokeh

When we announced Raspberry Pi back in 2011, the idea of producing an “ARM GNU/Linux box for $25″ seemed ambitious, so it’s pretty mind-bending to be able to knock another $5 off the cost while continuing to build it here in the UK, at the same Sony factory in South Wales we use to manufacture the Model B+. You can buy the Model A+ today from Farnell or RS Components in the UK, and from MCM or Allied Electronics in the US – element14 (part of the same company) has more info here.

We handed out a very few preview units to some people we know with video cameras and microphones. Here’s what they had to say:

Russell Barnes over at Raspi Today also has a review – check it out!