Mooncake, the Official Raspberry Pi Cat, is fed biscuits twice a day by an off-the-shelf cat-feeding robo-hopper that we bought before Raspberry Pi was a reality. (She also gets that horrible-smelling cat food in gravy from a packet, served up by real live humans.) I’ve just found out what to replace the robot with when it breaks.
Mooncake, well-nourished, “helping” us to dispatch fund-raising stickers
Dave at Twin Cities Maker has made a Pi-powered cat-feeding robot which dispenses two sorts of biscuits, so your fickle pet has a choice of different liver-flavoured kibbles throughout the day.
Dave’s cat feeder, with toaster for scale
It’s much more functional than the one I bought from the pet shop years ago; for a start, it’s wi-fi enabled, so it can be sent instructions remotely. And Dave has plans for making it even whizzier, with sound clips (Cat from Red Dwarf), a camera and a mobile webUI.
Work in progress: this is an Adafruit PermaProto with a couple of solder bridges at the top left. Instructions are on Dave’s blog.
We’re looking forward to see what additions Dave develops for the feeder. Seriously; if you can make this thing self-cleaning, Dave, you can sit back and never have to work again. Cat owners the world over will be banging your door down.
Jon Wise mailed Eben last night to tell us about a 3D printing project he’s been working on, and we thought it was so great we watched the video three times before going to bed. If you’ve ever used a 3D printer you’ll know that they need regular calibrating to make sure that the output is accurate. You have to ensure that various parts are parallel and orthogonal to each other, or your 3D object is likely to come out wonky; things are moving around on three axes, and usually you’ll be doing that calibration by hand.
Jon is sick of hand-calibrating, so he’s used a Pi to do the work for him. This video is a demonstration of how his setup works, using a pencil instead of the usual extrusion nozzle so you can better see what’s going on.
We got talking to Jon about how significant he thought the improvement in resolution you can get from automating calibration might be. He said:
I do not see it as competition to a machine tool approach, but for building products in new areas. I have a friend who would like to build edible products and this was one of the prompts to try alternative layouts – it would be easier to clean icing sugar off the flat base plate than from belts and bearings and the build platform could go into the dish-washer.
The design could be easily scaled by running on a large sheet of material as the arms are light and take no bending forces. The overall size will be big compared to the product but all designs have some down-sides. The key aspect is that anyone can make it. The rack and pinion bits are available from hobby stores and can be linked to any length. The motors come from old printers. There isn’t anything else.
We think this project is great. Using computing to automate repetitive tasks like this frees up time to use your brain to do other more interesting things, and leaves you more productive and more cheerful. It’s one of the reasons we think that giving everybody the opportunity to learn how to do this stuff is so important. What have you automated recently?
Presented without comment, because it’s perfect as it is. Thanks to John (would you believe this is his first ever bit of Python?), and thank you Judd! Python script and CAD design are available at NYCCNC.
Coffee and computing go hand in hand. The world’s first live streaming webcam was pointed at a coffee pot in the Cambridge University Computer Lab’s Trojan Room (yes, Americans, I know you think that sounds funny), back in the days when it was on a shared site in the centre of Cambridge and none of us had even heard of the internet.
It was 1991. A young Quentin Stafford-Fraser was researching ATM networks in the Trojan Room, and drinking too much coffee. Other people in the lab also liked fresh coffee, but there was only one coffee machine between 15 researchers, it was a long walk up an awful lot of stairs to get to the Trojan Room, and all too often, the pot was empty and the walk upstairs wasted. (I think “wasted” is pushing it a bit far. Quentin’s very good conversation.)
Ever practical, Quentin pointed a camera at the Trojan Room coffee pot, hooked it up to a video frame grabber the ATM researchers were using, got Paul Jardetzky to write some server software, and wrote the client software for it himself. Researchers downstairs could now ping the coffee pot to see whether there was anything in it. “The image was only updated about three times a minute, but that was fine because the pot filled rather slowly, and it was only greyscale, which was also fine, because so was the coffee.”
Quentin didn’t realise it at the time, but he had laid the grounds (badoom tish) for the world’s first webcam. In 1993, the <img> tag was added to HTML, meaning you could embed pictures on a webpage. The same year, two more researchers at the lab, Dan Gordon and Martyn Johnson, made changes to the original coffee pot setup to allow it to respond to requests from the internet, and xcoffee became the first ever live webcam.
The Trojan Room Coffee Pot stayed in place (and maintained an online presence: in 1996 it got its millionth hit, and journalist Steve Farrar noted that it had had more ‘visitors’ than King’s College Chapel and was therefore the number one tourist attraction in East Anglia) until 2001, when the University Computer Lab was moved out of its ramshackle old site to a shiny new building in West Cambridge. I was lucky enough to be at the university just before the move, and drank a couple of cups of coffee from the machine, courtesy of friends at the lab. (Quentin is right about the greyscale thing. Historic it might have been, but it was bloody awful coffee.) Eventually, the pot was auctioned on eBay to raise money for coffee-making in the new lab; Der Spiegel Online bought it for £3350. Apparently, Krups refurbished it free of charge, and it’s still making greyscale coffee for an office full of German journalists.
Anyway. This long preamble doesn’t have much to do with the Pi. (About an hour after I originally posted this, Barney Livingston pointed out on Twitter that The Trojan Room Coffee Server was an Acorn Archimedes, so shares its ARM processor heritage with the Pi.) But it does demonstrate that projects involving coffee and computers have a long and storied history in this part of the world. Technology has moved on, but the coffee is still supremely important. So Sacha Wolter from Deutsche Telekom has incorporated a Raspberry Pi into his coffee machine. It’s a bit more sophisticated than the Trojan Room Coffee Pot; Sacha’s coffee machine rings him up when the coffee’s ready, and if Sacha places a call to the machine, it’ll get a pot ready for his arrival.
In keeping with our educational mission, here’s a post about beer.
There seems to be a surprising overlap (perhaps it’s not so surprising) between the maker/hacker community and the home brew community. We are aware of a few small commercial breweries who are already using Raspberry Pis to drive automation of things like pressure and mash temperature, but until now everybody brewing with a Pi has had to come up with their own solutions.
Until now, that is. Elco, a beer and Pi enthusiast, has produced an open-source fermentation controller for the Raspberry Pi and an Arduino which is available for the whole community to use. (Those of you over legal drinking age, that is.) BrewPi allows you to control the process through a web browser interface. It’s completely user-configurable, will control temperature to within 0.1 degrees Celsius – and it outputs helpful graphs. (We like graphs.)
BrewPi user interface – lots of lovely, lovely graphs. Click to embiggen.
Elco’s currently working a digital specific gravity sensor (which at its current stage of development has to do with a weight dangling from a string), and he’s looking for community help with the continued development of BrewPi. Head over to his website, help out with the codebase and contribute to his wiki – and let us know if you end up using the software to do any brewing yourselves.
I’m in a bit of a rush today; we’re driving down to Wales with Pete in an hour or so to visit the UK factory, which is celebrating a special anniversary tomorrow. So here’s a grab bag of stuff from around the internet that people have been doing with their Pis. You guys have been having a busy week.
This isn’t the only brewing project we’re aware of, but it’s the first we’ve seen pictures from. If you’re using your Raspberry Pi to control fermentation (bread, beer or kimchee), please drop us a line; we’d love to hear from you.
Rob’s hackspace tour of the US continues, and the photos that are emerging make the rest of us wish we were there with him – it looks brilliant. Our friends from Adafruit dropped by last night’s event at NYCResistor. A couple of photos below: you can see more on Adafruit. Rob has added an extra stop today: if you’re in the CS Lounge at Colombia University at 5.30pm, he’ll be there to talk about Pi.
Lady Ada demonstrates Adafruit’s Raspberry Pi PoV wand
Rob, capturing hearts and minds.
Back in the UK, Chris Roffey got in touch to tell us about a series of Coding Club books he’s writing for kids. You can read more about the series by clicking on the image, and there’s a PDF you can preview of the introduction to the Python Basics book, due next month.
One of my favourite projects this week has been this face recognition security camera from Kean Walmsley. He says: “Here’s the elevator pitch: Facecam is a security camera that recognises a resident’s Facebook friends when they come to their front door and allows for tailored communication both to the resident and the visitor.” Read more about it here and here.
Raspberry Pi Retaliation. Click to visit site and download source code.
Heather heard someone call their Raspberry Pi a “Raspberry Pee Eye”, and was inspired to make this crocheted raspberry complete with Tom Selleck moustache.
Click to visit Heather’s blog.
And here’s a bit of video: aaa801 has got open webOS, HP’s mobile/tablet operating system, running on the Raspberry Pi. He says:
“This video shows the first public build of open webOS running on the Raspberry Pi. There is no GUI at this point in time for ARM builds, there should be one within a month or so. When the GUI is up and running I will release a ROM to the community.” Thanks aaa801 – we’re looking forward to it!
Right. I’m off to Wales. Wish me luck with the caravans.
Eben and I are travelling to Edinburgh today for the Turing Festival, a technology festival that runs at the same time as the Edinburgh Festival. Eben’s giving a talk on education and technology on Saturday; we’re very excited to be at the same event as Steve Wozniak, and hope to be eating many square sausages and black puddings.
So we’ll be rather absent from the internet today, because Edinburgh’s a long way away from Cambridge. Here are some bits and pieces to keep you occupied.
Maplin Raspberry Pi bundle. Click image to pre-order.
Maplin, the UK electronics company, are selling a Raspberry Pi bundle, which includes a Raspberry Pi and all the peripherals you might need to get started, from September. You can pre-order now if you want to get ahead of the crowd (orders are first-come, first-served), and they’ll arrive in stores next month. We think the kit will make a great Christmas present, especially if you know any young people who might have trouble rustling up things like wi-fi dongles and USB hubs on their own. For £69 you’ll get a Raspberry Pi, keyboard and mouse, an SD card pre-loaded with Raspbian, a powered USB hub, HDMI and USB cables, a power supply and a wi-fi dongle.
Seven-year-old Philip, whom you may remember from last week, has spent another week programming in Scratch with his Raspberry Pi and has another game to show us. Dad tells me that Philip’s plush parrot, who features heavily in this video, doesn’t have a name yet: please leave suggestions in the comments!
We can’t get enough of videos and pictures like this at the Foundation. If you’re a proud parent with a Raspberry Pi-wielding kid, or if you’re a kid yourself, and you’ve got video or pictures you’d like us to share on this website, please mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org – we really like to remind ourselves and everybody else that this sort of thing is what the Raspberry Pi project is all about.
And some grown-ups have been working on stuff too…
You may have already read about Dave Hunt’s DSLR hack – it went viral last week. He’s embedded a Raspberry Pi in a camera battery grip, which allows him to wirelessly tether his camera to…well, whatever he’s got on his network. He’s been automatically pushing pictures to other devices, controlling the camera with networked objects (a smartphone, a PC), making it respond to a remote trigger, auto-saving pictures to a USB drive – the Raspberry Pi also works as an intervalometer, and he can use it to program aperture and exposure settings. He’s got big ideas for further development, too, with plans for an additional screen and an internal power supply. Here’s a videoof the camera sending images to an iPad, with some example Perl script.
Off-the-shelf DSLR cameras with these kinds of functions typically run into the many thousands of pounds. Dave’s done it all with a $35 Raspberry Pi. More power to your thrifty, imaginative elbow, Dave.
And have you come across Nixie clocks? These cold-cathode tube clocks have been a bit of a web fetish for a little while now, but this one, from Martin Oldfield, is the first one I’ve seen being driven by a Raspberry Pi. I’m going to hack one of these together myself when I get some time; it’s a lovely looking thing, and putting one together at home is simpler than you’d think.
Meanwhile, in Germany, a Cherry G80-3000 keyboard (one of those fabulous mechanical keyboards with a lovely clicky action, like my now-deceased IBM Model M but from this decade) has been hacked to contain a Raspberry Pi, hidden in some space under the function keys – a whole computer in a keyboard. I feel like we’ve seen this kind of thing before.
Please spread this Jam
The Raspberry Jams continue around the world – Milton Keynes, Bristol and Melbourne, Australia (which happened very shortly before I wrote this post on Tuesday night, so I don’t have any bloggy links about it yet), have seen Jams in the last few days. These events are a great way to meet other Raspberry Pi users, get a start if you’re a kid or just a grown-up who wants to learn about programming and electronics, and to show off your projects.
Raspberry Pi and something much bigger. (It's an evaluation board from Heber, who sponsored the Bristol Raspberry Jam.)
Our good friend Alan “Teknoteacher” Donohoe, who does a phenomenal amount of work organising and promoting the Jams, maintains a page describing where and when all the Jams across the world are being held. We’re seeing venues as small as local cafes and venues as large as university auditoriums being used for groups of all sizes, and people aged from 14 to 70 setting the events up. The list is growing all the time; if there isn’t one near you yet, why not set one up yourself?