I am driven to blog from Starbucks today, thanks to lousy public transport and awkwardly timed meetings. I am amazingly caffeinated.
A Picade prototype
So. Kickstarter finally launched its UK offering today, and the very first project to get approved (proof of this rather awesome feat is available here at the Kickstarter blog) has a Raspberry Pi at its heart (we notice that those involved with Raspberry Pi seem to be extremely skilled at hitting F5, hence the excellent positioning of this project at the head of the Kickstarter queue). If you’ve been following the news on this site, you may have noticed that it’s a project that’s being run by some familiar people very close to the Foundation’s hearts.
Prototype under development. You may recognise the beardy fella with the hat.
Paul Beech and Jon Williamson run Pimoroni, a company they set up to make the very popular Pibow case. It’s my favourite of the cases out there: I use one myself. It’s now open source and available on Thingiverse, and was acclaimed “the best-looking Raspberry Pi case ever” by Gizmodo. Paul is also the designer of the Raspberry Pi logo. We published a post here about what they’ve been up to over the last few months, in a period where they’ve become employers and business owners on the back of the Pibow, a few weeks ago. They’re both old-school gamers, and they have a plan for a new product, for which they need Kickstarter funding.
Enter the Picade.
Picade! (Prototype model)
The Picade is intended to be a very high-quality, hackable, desktop arcade machine. It’ll come in kit form, with a top-notch screen; a good-looking, solid cabinet; a proper arcade joystick; and handsome microswitch controls: all you need to provide is the Raspberry Pi. We love the idea, and we know that Paul and Jon’s attention to detail, finish and quality is exceptional. The Picade’s going to be quite a special piece of kit when it’s done.
An updated Raspbian “wheezy” SD card image is now available from the downloads page. This is a minor point release, adding support for the 512MB Model B and permitting arbitrary partitioning of memory between CPU and GPU by editing the gpu_mem property in config.txt.
We’re on the hunt for guest posts for a couple of weeks in November. See this post for more details on how to contribute.
There seem to be a lot of Raspberry Pi + pumpkin projects around at the moment. Can’t think why.
Gordon@Drogon’s Pumpkin Pi (as featured in the MagPi). Gordon had to photograph this in the summer, when pumpkins were not available, so he’s used a sort of Halloween bucket instead. Click the picture for instructions and more bucket photos.
There’s non-pumpkin spooky activity out there too. I love this: it’s a Raspberry Pi, an eight-switch relay, a garage door lifter rod, and a can opener, all hacked together to make a candy dispensing machine so you don’t actually have to interact with any children or open the front door on Halloween.
I love this even more: it’s a Raspberry Pi and a Makey Makey in a box, hooked together to make a Halloween sound box that uses the conductivity of your fingers to trigger events.
A large number of engineering professionals are using the Raspberry Pi to explain to their kids what it is they do at work. When we’ve met these families, the enthusiasm positively dripping off everybody has been extraordinary. But we’ve also had a really surprising number of emails from parents who haven’t done any programming since school, but who still have books on BASIC from when they were kids, remember enjoying computing lessons, and want to share some of what they used to do with their kids. It’s actually a great way to get kids started, especially if you have some enthusiasm of your own to share: enthusiasm’s contagious.
The good news for those people, and for anyone else who wants to learn BASIC from scratch or revisit an old friend, is that TinyBASIC is now available for the Raspberry Pi. Andrew Lack has ported this very lightweight editor, interpreter and graphics package to the Pi, and we think it’s great.
Before I go any further, I want to pre-empt any “But BASIC is not an object oriented language and will therefore ruin the tiny, plastic minds of our children, who will be forever unable to understand structured programming. And GOTO is for clowns,” comments here by saying that learning BASIC as kids doesn’t seem to have held any of our developers back; and that if you really hate GOTO you can actually disable it in TinyBASIC. As Andrew says:
One of its unique features is the provision of flavours which allows the beginner to taste programming with vanilla which has the simple—but unsatisfactory—GOTO statement, then make the switch to sweeter raspberry and learn the joys of structured programming where GOTO is banned!
Flag output, and the BASIC you need to draw it. Click to visit example code page.
We’re considering bundling TinyBASIC as part of the standard Raspbian image once we’ve done some work on how popular it turns out to be (after all, it’s not as if it’s going to be taking up scads of space on your SD card; the .deb distribution file is only 66k): let us know what you think in the comments.
Want to control the temperature of your barbecue, smoker, firepit or clambake over a web interface? Here’s the Raspberry Pi-powered HeaterMeter. Bryan Mayland says:
HeaterMeter for RaspberryPi joins an Arduino / AVR ATmega328 microcontroller with OpenWrt running on a RaspberryPi $35 wonder-computer for the purpose of providing oven-like control of a charcoal BBQ grill via web interface. The microcontroller controls a fan which limits airflow to the pit, displays the current status on a character LCD, and passes the data on to the RaspberyPi which streams real-time updates to connected web browsers. The website also works on mobile browsers running Android or iOS, allowing users to unchain themselves from their grills and partake in many life-enriching activities such as
Going to the grocery store to buy more beer
Going to a bar to drink more beer
Not get off the couch, where your beer is
Possibly other non-beer related hobbies
Dean Ellis has got Monogame running on his Pi. There are details of exactly what hacks he’s used to get it running so well on the YouTube page that this video comes from.
Monogame is an open source implementation of the Microsoft XNA 4 Framework – and it gives us all kinds of ideas about game development on the Pi. You can read some more about Dean and his Pi here.
Make Yourself at Home
We’ve been seeing a lot of visual artists using the Raspberry Pi in their installations. Whether you’re driving video or if you want to drive something with wheels, the Pi offers artists a much cheaper way of getting to their goals than the old “borrow someone’s old laptop” model. We’ve seen Pis being used in the Tate Gallery’s new Tanks in London; we’ve seen them being used in installations at Milton Keynes shopping centre. Most recently, I’ve heard from Martin Beha, who was working on the electronics side of an installation by Austrian artist Robert F Hammerstiel in Hannover. He used Raspberry Pis to make three lawnmower robots talk to each other. (You can see them from about two minutes into this video.) The result is curiously charming.
Click for more on the installation
The communication is established through Wireless LAN. One of the Robots is configured as a server and delivers a (completely wrong but usable) time via NTP for synchronisation. It also calculates the start time for the audio files and delivers it to the other robots via SSH and “at”. The audio is taken directly from the analog output and is amplified by an 18W amplifier module. The sound quality is quite satisfactory for speech.
The devices are powered by a second battery because the manufacturer of the lawn mower robot has built in a function that monitors if additional current is taken from the main battery and stops the robot. The 5V is generated by DC/DC-Converters for car use. Other included circuits are for example a differential amplifier against an audio ground loop and a deep discharge protector.
I chose the Raspberry Pi for reasons of flexibility, size and because there was a very limited budget. The original plan was to communicate via Bluetooth Class 1 dongles and rfcomm to get a virtual serial connection. Because of several bugs in Bluetooth I could not connect the devices and decided to choose Wi-Fi as an alternative. Depending on different (resistor) jumper settings on the GPIO-Port, the RPIs recognize their conversation role after startup and play the right file. The jumper also defines the role as server or client. So I was able to use the same SD-Card image for all robots.
The actual audio files are mp3s of a dialogue about the sense of a robot’s life, spoken by three TV announcers of Austrian national television (Austrians will surely recognize their voices).
STEM – training the teachers
There was a big Raspberry Pi event in Manchester last week, where a large group (including our very own Pete Lomas, accurately described by gocracker.com as “charismatic“) came together for a CPD/networking event for teachers at the Museum of Science and Industry.
Krisma? Bags of it.
We’re not alone in recognising that there’s a lot to be done before a new Computing syllabus arrives at schools next year in helping teachers out of the old ICT mindset and showing them how easy starting with the Pi can be. We’re really pleased to see how seriously teachers are taking the Raspberry Pi, and, as always, incredibly grateful to STEMNET for their tireless volunteering. This was the first of a series of events, where teachers were learning how to use the Pi with Manchester University’s Pi Face, getting to grips with Scratch and Python, and working on cross-curricular activities with the Raspberry Pi. A number of STEM ambassadors from industry also attended, doing that support and mentorship thing that STEMNET does so well. (I don’t think I’ve been to a single Raspberry Pi event that hasn’t been attended by at least one STEM ambassador.) We’d like to thank every one of them, and all of the teachers who are working so hard on getting to grips with a new piece of kit – we’re very grateful.
Today we have some really big news, which is going to mean a lot to many programmers in our community who have been asking about it ever since launch. This is one of those announcements that has been in the pipeline for quite some time, but we haven’t been able to talk about it until now.
As of right now, all of the VideoCore driver code which runs on the ARM is available under a FOSS license (3-Clause BSD to be precise). The source is available from our new userland repository on GitHub. If you’re not familiar with the status of open source drivers on ARM SoCs this announcement may not seem like such a big deal, but it does actually mean that the BCM2835 used in the Raspberry Pi is the first ARM-based multimedia SoC with fully-functional, vendor-provided (as opposed to partial, reverse engineered) fully open-source drivers, and that Broadcom is the first vendor to open their mobile GPU drivers up in this way. We at the Raspberry Pi Foundation hope to see others follow.
As you’ll see from the diagram above, everything running on the ARM is now open source. So, what does this mean to the average Raspberry Pi user? Aside from being exciting to FOSS enthusiasts for philosophical reasons, it’s also going to make it much easier for third party developers to (for instance) implement Wayland EGL client and EGL server support, or to provide better integration of GLES/VG with X.Org. We look forward to working with the relevant communities on this. It should also now be easier, with appropriate cleanup, to get the vchiq messaging system integrated in to the upstream Linux kernel, which is another goal we are keen to work with the community on achieving.
The open sourcing of the userland libraries is of course going to be massively helpful to those of you who have been either actively porting or wanting to use alternate operating systems on the Raspberry Pi. We’ve been excitedly following the progress of FreeBSD, NetBSD, Plan9, RISC OS, Haiku and others. All these projects could now potentially port these libraries and make use of the full hardware accelerated graphics facilities of the Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi could not have existed without the massive body of Free and Open Source Software we use and build upon. We are delighted to have been involved in giving back to the community in this way, and hope many of you find it useful. I’d like to give a big thank you to Broadcom for being the first vendor to take this step forward, a significant step for the embedded Linux community and the wider FOSS community interested in embedded GPUs.
Alex Bradbury is the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s lead Linux developer.
Eben and I are going to be away for a couple of weeks next month, helping my Mum celebrate a birthday with a 0 on the end, in foreign parts. We’d like to see some guest posts from you while we’re not around to curate this blog – pictures of your projects, a few words about what your kids are doing with the Pi, thoughts on teaching, essays on the sort of opportunities access to cheap hardware can bring, ideas about the future, what you think should be going on in schools and universities – we’re open to anything and everything, as long as it has some relevance to the Raspberry Pi project.
If you’d like to take part, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your completed post, and any pictures, video or other media you want to use. Our hardworking moderators will be looking after things while we’re away, and they’ll be helping me to select which posts we publish.
Update: On Pete’s advice I’ve removed the caveat about the redundant pins on the GPIO connector. We’re committing to these remaining as power and ground pins from here on out. Damn my conservative hide
We are pleased to announce that schematics for the revision 2.0 Raspberry Pi Model B are now available here.
This post describes the key changes introduced in the new board revision. Note that although we have not yet exercised our option to add additional signals to the expansion connector, developers of expansion boards should continue to treat pins 4, 9, 14, 17, 20 and 25 as DNC (do not connect).
Eben’s giving a talk at the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Young Professionals event this evening. Updated to add: video here! One of the subjects he’ll be talking about is open hardware, which I know a lot of you are interested in – I hope you can find some time to watch!
I’m off to watch Twitter like a hawk. James May from Top Gear has just been tweeting about his Raspberry Pi this morning, which has had us punching the air in a masculine fashion. Unfortunately, he has hit a small initial bump in the road. In cases like this, we strongly recommend stealing borrowing the SD card from your spouse or child’s camera.