We got cover artwork (possibly not the final version, but cover artwork nonetheless) through for the Raspberry Pi User Guide yesterday. This book, written by Eben Upton (Eben, if you’ve been living under a rock, is our Executive Director and the main force behind the Raspberry Pi project) and Gareth Halfacree and published by Wiley & Sons, should be out soon as an e-book (ePub, Kindle and PDF) and as a physical thing made out of trees. Here’s a link to pre-order on Amazon.
Inside, you’ll find everything you need to get started with your Raspberry Pi, including an easy introduction to Linux for total beginners, a guide to getting your SD card working, programming in Scratch and Python, using the Raspberry Pi as a home media centre, using the GPIO to do some physical computing (driving things like lights and motors and recognising switches and sensors), a beginners’ soldering guide, and much more.
The way Wiley & Sons are releasing the book, which is written with the assumption that the reader doesn’t have any technical knowledge (yet – we hope they will by the time they’ve read first few chapters and used the examples), is a little unusual. It’s being published in e-book and physical form in the UK and US, but they’re also releasing a cut-down, abridged version in e-book form only which you can buy at a reduced price. The short version just includes the first six chapters (some of which have been snipped a bit): the chapters on getting started with your Raspberry Pi. Be aware that this abridged version won’t include any material on hardware, or any of the intermediate projects; but if you’re an absolute beginner who wants to save a bit of money, it might suit you.
We’re really excited about the way this has turned out. Eben’s had plenty of journal publications, but this is only his second book. And the first one doesn’t really count, because it’s a rhyming dictionary…
We’re in Reykjavík this week, and met up on our arrival with some of the guys from HakkavéIin (The Hack Machine), who spent the evening demonstrating just how great Icelanders are. Board games in an independent cinema foyer, very large langoustines, microbrew and debates about the command line: what could be better?
I spent a lot of the evening talking to the most excellent Andie Nordgren. Andie is a technical producer at CCP games, and she’s also one of the team behind a very handy instructional comic about soldering. Click the image to download a pdf of the whole seven pages. It’s a great visual reference and a cool thing to put on the wall; you can also use it as an educational tool, encouraging kids to colour in resistors…and to do some soldering. Thanks Andie!
Eben and I are away from the office for a few days while we attend Poptech in Reykjavík. I’ll be doing my best to keep things updated here in-between attending panel discussions, meeting some Icelandic educators, hackers and Raspberry Pi enthusiasts, and visiting the magma chamber of a dormant volcano called Þríhnúkagígur (try saying that after one too many glasses of Brennivín) in one of those window-cleaners’ cradle things. I am starting to think that I may have been a little foolhardy in agreeing to this. I get vertigo at the top of the escalator in Leicester Square tube station.
While I am contemplating plummeting window-cleaners’ cradles and the usefulness of ladders, here is an easy but very satisfying little hardware project from Gordon Henderson at drogon.net. It’s another great way to start getting to grips with the Raspberry Pi’s general purpose input/output (GPIO) pins, and you’ll end up with a little physical LED game representing a climb out of a well (or a 400ft magma chamber) using a ladder – you have to press a button to climb the ladder, but only when the LEDs are flashing, or you’ll slide back down to the bottom again. Gordon used the SK Pang starter kit for Raspberry Pi, which we rather like; it comes with a Raspberry Pi cover with breadboard (breadboard, for beginners, is a prototyping board you can plug components into without using solder), LEDs, jumper wires, some miniature switches, some resistors and a 16-bit I²C IO expander. You can use the kit, or buy the parts individually from your local electronics shop.
Gordon’s hardware instructions are here – and there’s a video too. (See below.) Software and a theory of operation are yet to come, so keep an eye on his website (I’ll add links here when they’re available).
Liz: I try to keep an eye out for some of the kookier projects people are using their Raspberry Pis in. This autonomous, solar-powered, Atlantic-exploring work-in-progress fits the bill precisely (and it has a great name and incorporates Tupperware into its design), so I asked Greg Holloway, the Mind Behind, to write a few words about what he’s doing for us. Hoist the mainsail, Greg!
Massive 25 foot waves, 60mph winds, torrential rain, lightning, and the Kraken. None of those things should be put anywhere near a Raspberry Pi. On the Atlantic Ocean all of those are commonplace, and that is exactly where I’m sending my Raspberry Pi. The project is called FishPi, and the aim is to develop an Autonomous Marine Surface Vehicle, and have it cross the Atlantic Ocean.
I don’t suppose it will happen quite like the illustration depicts when the Kraken shows up; FishPi will be powered by a 130watt solar panel, so there will be no masts or sails. The propulsion will run from batteries, charged by the solar panel, and it will utilise a Kort Nozzle to gain maximum thrust from what will be limited power.
There’s a long way to go yet before the Raspberry Pi gets its sea legs, but that’s not to say progress has not been made. At the moment my time is being spent developing the Proof-Of-Concept Vehicle. The POCV has a hull of 20 inches, so it’s quite small. Below deck sits a brushed 540 motor coupled to a 2.5:1 reduction gearbox, which in turn drives a ducted 40mm Kort propeller. There’s also a servo which will rotate the nozzle to turn the vessel.
The Raspberry Pi is going into a waterproof container, an upside down lunch box, along with all the other important components. The important bits will run on the i²c bus, a GPS, a servo controller board (which will drive the rudder and the Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) for the motor), and a compass. I hope to attach the Raspberry Pi’s camera once it becomes available, if it’s not ready in time a USB one will do instead.
One of the systems I’m looking at now is the power for the POCV, and it looks like I’ll be running it from six 1.2v NiMh batteries. Power to the Raspberry Pi will come from an LDO outputting a regulated 5v, a similar LDO will be used to provide 3.3v for the devices on the i²c bus. The ESC will draw directly from the battery pack, but the output to the motor will be controlled by the Raspberry Pi via the Servo controller board on the i²c bus. The batteries are to be spread around the hull to help balance it on the water and to add ballast for stability.
There is a lot of head scratching going on, and I’m always ready to hear fresh ideas, and of course the occasional warnings associated with undertaking such a task. The project website is at fishpi.org, you’re all welcome to pop onto our forum, and follow the projects progress, and there is also a twitter account; @TheFishPi.
I’ll be taking the FishPi along to the Nottingham Hackspace Raspberry Jam on Tuesday the 3rd of July. Feel free to ask questions, make suggestions, and if you’re raucous enough, you can join in with some sea shanties too, ye landlubbers.
Our friends at the African Robotics Network (AFRON) are currently running a competition to design a low-cost robot platform. The idea is to create affordable robots to help ignite people’s interest in computing, science, maths and engineering.
While the ultimate target is to build a $10 machine, all prototypes that cost less than $100 qualify for entry. The IEEE Robotics and Automation Society are kindly sponsoring the cash prizes, and we’re also supplying some Raspberry Pis as prizes for the winning teams. The deadline for your entries is the middle of September.
Mike Cook has rigged up a solenoid-controlled glockenspiel to play some of Rogers and Hammerstein’s finest. Just brilliant.
He’s hand-built a simple buffer board to intermediate between the Raspberry Pi and his robot glockenspiel, which you can read all about on his blog; there are instructions for making a similar board at home, which sounds like a great weekend project. Give me a shout if you make one yourselves!
This is a great event if you are thinking about studying Computer Science at Cambridge (where else would you want to go!). There will be a talk on the admissions process and the chance to quiz students and academics about studying here and explore what they do with some hands-on demos.
Many of those involved in Raspberry Pi will also be on hand to give demonstrations and talk about the project. Everyone is welcome to attend the Computer Lab events, including students of any level, parents, guardians, and teachers. There will also be draws and competitions giving you the chance to go home with a shiny new Raspberry Pi!
A picture post today; I thought it was time to remind you all what this project’s really about. Thanks to all the proud parents who sent photos in!
Emma, age 4
Ben, age 11
Robin, age 8, who set the Raspberry Pi up very competently on his own using the Quick Start guide.
Peter, age 65, and Sam, age 10 - and some LEGO
Mikey, age 4. Dad says: "Mikey is more excited than me (only just). Now I know how my father felt when he brought home the ZX." Mikey wants to be a software developer like his Dad when he grows up.
Megan, age 5
Lexy (10) and Margaret (9) - a couple of friends making games in Scratch after school.
Lautaro, age 3 (in blue), and his brother Joaquin, age 2 (in red)
And Lautaro again, with a very fine case made from Rasti, a LEGO-alike from Argentina.
James, age 10
Jac, age 7.
Here's Jac again. He is writing a game called "Animal Fury", and says it will be "Like Monkey Quest but awesome because you can choose polar bears and they shoot guns." Thanks Jac (and thanks Dad!)
Harry, age 15, using a Raspberry Pi at school.
Sophie, 6, and Emma, 4, demo their Raspberry Pi for Granny.
Sophie and Emma's first bit of Python, constructing nonsense sentences. Sophie has also written a two-player noughts and crosses game.
Emily, age 5. There's something funny about this one, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
Ella is 2 and a half. She's using GCompris, which is a great educational software choice for really little kids; it's designed for children aged 2-10. Click the picture to visit Ella's Dad's blog, with lots more Ella pics.
Daisy, age 4
Cohen, age 8
Ameera, age 10
Thanks again to all the parents who let us use these pictures, and especially to all the kids!
Alex has produced a new reference image based on the upcoming Debian “wheezy” release. This incorporates Dom’s latest firmware, and numerous kernel patches for performance and stability. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be running a public beta program to identify major bugs, and in particular regressions relative to the existing Debian “squeeze” image.
Although this is a beta release, you will almost definitely find it a worthwhile upgrade. Please give it a try, and report issues here.
We’ve had some people send us some great stuff this week – if you’re working on something cool that you think we might feature in a grab bag post, please mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First up, some video. Linus Torvalds has been talking about Raspberry Pi (we will forgive him his insistence on calling it Raspberry P.I. because he is a massive hero of ours, and the fact that he ever mentions us at all is beyond fantastic.) The question about Raspberry Pi starts at 52m 19s. (The Nvidia bit earlier on is, broadly speaking, NSFW.)
Steve Jones from iMica has put AROS, an open-source implementation of Amiga OS on the Raspberry Pi.
Greg Macaree has been using the Raspberry Pi as a crucial piece of wedding reception audio equipment, the whole setup nearly jeopardised by a milking machine (seriously). He says:
For those not familiar, Sonos is a multi-room streaming hifi system. The Connect:Amp incorporates a media player with a 55w stereo amplifier and a 2 port network switch. It connects to your router, network storage device (if you have one) and speakers so you can listen to your music collection or Internet radio feed wherever you have a zone player setup. They also have the ‘Sonos Control’ an ip based wireless remote control which connects directly to the system.
I’ve had a few Sonos zones setup in my house for a couple of years now, generally playing a rock related Internet feed whenever I’m at home! So it was situation normal a few months ago when Becky, my fiancée had one of her mates over to chat about her forthcoming wedding. The music was probably on the loud side, so Becky picked up the Sonos remote to turn the volume down… And so the conversation began, that ended in me volunteering to provide the music for the wedding reception!
As the event got closer the technical aspects became more apparent, the venue – a marquee on their family farm would certainly not have an Internet connection or even a reliable power supply that I’d want to plug a pc into.
Sat at my desk I looked down and had the light-bulb moment, the Sonos system requires two things from a network – an ip address and a music source.. Sat in front of me was my recently delivered Raspberry Pi which could deliver those.. or could it?
I needed to have dhcp and file server services but having only dabbled in Linux (I’ve been a Windows user since 3.11 ) it was going to be a small challenge, although I knew it should be possible.
I started by downloading the Debian image from www.raspberrypi.org This gave me the bare bones of the server. Next job was to share a folder that I could fill with mp3′s. The Sonos devices need a windows style share, so after some research online I found that the tool for this task is an app or daemon called samba. Using apt-get I soon had samba installed and configured and I attempted to connect from my windows laptop. Before i could even attempt this i needed to know the current ip address of the Pi. Ifconfig soon displayed the answer and success! I could see the share. However I couldn’t write anything to it. Google soon came up trumps and chmod 777 was run on the folder – I could now copy the mp3′s onto the sd card of the Pi.
I then attempted to connect to the share from Sonos and it happily connected straight away, but with the Pi as a dhcp client I had to remain connected to my home network. Again Google came to the rescue, a static ip address was setup and dhcp3 was downloaded, installed and configured. I disconnected the Pi from my home lan and plugged it directly into my Sonos Amp. I rebooted both and nothing.. My remote wouldn’t talk to the amp although I thought it should be ok and the activity port on the amp was showing activity – I couldn’t connect.
I was just about to pull the setup apart to check everything when the remote then popped into life, showed a message box – “new ip address, reboot now?” so I quickly clicked ok and up it came with its new ip – it then connected to the amp and in turn the amp connected to the Pi! Blimey, it works! I selected a track and hit play.. Lo and behold, music came blaring from the speakers and the problem was resolved. I had the solution I needed!
Come the day, I setup the Pi, Sonos & speakers in the marquee.. But there was no power, the kitchen had ‘borrowed’ it – I couldn’t test anything so had to disappear to the wedding hoping that all was well.
Several hours later, after the sit down meal, the power arrived and I plugged the Sonos and Pi into the extension – disaster.. The Sonos wouldn’t boot. To cut a long story short, the milking parlour on the farm was now in full production and that didn’t leave enough juice for us.. Once milking time was over I tried again and success.. It was a few minutes later than planned but the reception was soon rocking and it kept on rocking into the early hours!
Congratulations to Lyndsey & Alan – a fantastic day, assisted by a small slice of Pi!
And finally, Warrington Collegiate have been working on getting Windows 7 (!) running on the Raspberry Pi using the VMware View Open Client. We think they’re the first people to have done this – they’re calling it Magnum Pi, because we all love moustaches and Hawaiian shirts. Nick Smeltzer, their Director of IT Services, emailed me to say that Microsoft already know about it…
Microsoft have seen it too and politely reminded us about licencing – ie connecting to a Windows 7 virtual machine from a Linux device. It’s a no no. But fine with Hyper V funnily enough. They were still impressed though….