Raspberry Pi Blog

This is the official Raspberry Pi blog for news and updates from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, education initiatives, community projects and more!

Dr Who theme on a Pi Zero

I am an unabashed synthesiser nerd. I grew up in the 1980s on a rich diet of Gary Numan, the Pet Shop Boys and Erasure, and had my own Roland Juno 60 (approximately fourth hand and very battered) in my bedroom. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I learned about sine waves.

Phil Atkin, who you’ve read about before in these parts, has spent the last few years building some incredibly sophisticated synthesiser software for his Raspberry Pis. Recently, he has been working on a Pi Zero. I hate to get all Buzzfeed on you, but you won’t believe that a $5 computer can do this one weird thing. Click play, and pass out in AMAZEMENT.

Phil says:

Over 52 years ago, I heard the Doctor Who theme for the first time at my grandmother’s house in Sheffield, at the Stones brewery in Burton Road, Sheffield, the first ever episode. I was only 4 years old, the sounds terrified me, the whole family sat transfixed at the noises, which had been created some months previously by the awesome Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. No synthesizers, just wobulating oscillators, tapes and a shedload of patience, diligence and dazzling creativity.

That was 1963.

Now it’s 2016 (bloody hell, last time I looked it was 1978) – can you believe you can do all that AND MORE for £4.99 today? One Raspberry Pi Zero (£4), one 99p USB audio interface, and the difficult bit – a huge bunch of very specialized, hardcore, time-consuming software development.

This track has 8 Virtual Analog monosynths, one wavetable synth (polysynth but with polyphony set to 1 as I am somewhat lax with the noteOff messages throughout!) and a single sample replay synth for the Tardis takeoff effect.

The VAsynths are :
Channel 1 : kick/tom – noise, bandpass filtered slightly resonant, and an EG to shape the amplitude
Channel 2 : snare (same setting as 1 but up the scale)
Channel 3 : the old faithful ‘Martyn Ware Glitterclap’ – these 3 are not exactly canonical but I wanted to add in a blast of “Human League do Gary Glitter / Doctorin the Tardis” for the outro. This is a burst of noise modulated by a square wave LFO, shaped by an EG to become a decaying train of noise pulses, bandpass filtered and quite resonant to emphasise the clappiness
Channels 4/5 : a pair of Radiophonic Wobulators, sin waves which warm up (some Phase Distortion, some morphing to slightly square) under a slow ramping EG, which also ramps up the LFO amplitude that is FM and AMing them. These have a bend range of +- 24 semitones for the giant 2 octave swoops
Channel 6 : the diddly dum bass riff. This is really velocity sensitive, both in amplitude and in brightness. OSCB gets louder under velocity, and both OSCs sharpen up under hard bashing – the ‘fine pitch’ modulation output is hooked into a fast EG. So really hard hits sound like plucked strings, sharpening immediately under tension then going true very quickly
Channel 7 : a bass ‘slurp’ for the grace notes – a slightly less bright version of the riff, and with a larger reverb send amount to distance it
Channel 8 : a noise generator with a keyfollowed bandpass filter, with some resonance to be played manually (hence hamfisted noises throughout). Heavily feedback delay adds SFX swishy whooshy things to the mix – really spacey, dude!
Channel 9 : a wavetable synth for the ‘melodica’ melodic notes
Channel 10 : EXTERMINATE! Samples, for the heck of it

Plus there are 4 delays with low pass filters and independent LR settings for delay, levels and feedback levels, plus a stereoizing reverb engine.

Can you believe it – 10 whole synths, all of them awesome, 8 of them virtual analog, on £4.99 of computer hardware. Less than 5 quid!!! 2016 is an insane place to be.

Thanks for the awesome arrangement Delia. And thanks to the Timelords for “Doctorin’ The Tardis”, spotting the unholy glory that is the mashup of Delia Derbyshire and early 70s glitterpop. So glorious a mashup that Hell’s Bells, I just HAD to slap the tempo up from 140 to 143 BPM as the drums kick in. I go WHOO HOO every time that happens, and I don’t often get actually excited by something I’ve created.

p.s. major thanks to the team at dwtheme.com without whom my tone deaf / ‘cannot do intervals’ brain would have struggled to make sense of this – this would have taken a month rather than 2 days!!

Phil is looking for commercial support for the work he’s doing – you can drop him a line here if you think you can help.

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Submersible Raspberry Pi drone

We found something rather fabulous on YouTube. Niels Affourtit has taken his home-made underwater drone (or ROV – Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle) from bathtub tests to real-world deployment in a great big lake somewhere in the Netherlands.

Submersible

It’s a sophisticated build – the video below says that it uses an HD camera, the Raspberry Pi, some 3d-printed parts (propellers and a tilt system for the camera), a BOSCH BMP180 Atmospheric Pressure Sensor, and a ADXL345 Digital 3-Axis Gravity Acceleration Sensor. The whole assembly took around 250 hours and cost Niels €350. It’s been tested down to 12m, but is designed to go deeper. The unit updates a webpage with live data: tilt, roll, heading, temperature and internal pressure (leaks) sensor data are all displayed in real time.

Raspberry Pi Submarine ROV (underwater drone)

On a documentary of National Geographic about the salvage of the Costa Concordia I saw a VideoRay for the first time. I was impressed and started searching online to see if I could build one myself. I ended up at openrov.com and decided to build mine from scratch using their knowledge.

The drone is currently controlled via an Ethernet cable that keeps it tethered, so at the moment it has a limited range. Fish-spotters can watch a feed from the drone’s camera here:

ROV in hoofdvaart

My underwater ROV in Dutch channel (Hoofdvaart Nieuw Vennep). 50cm visibility (Gopro4)

There are more examples of the drone being tested on Niels’ YouTube channel. Last May, he wrote this on YouTube:

On a documentary of National Geographic about the salvage of the Costa Concordia I saw a VideoRay for the first time. I was impressed and started searching online to see if I could build one myself. I ended up at openrov.com and decided to build mine from scratch using their knowledge. I started Christmas 2014 and here you see the maiden trip in a sweet water lake in the Netherlands last week.

It’s a lovely build – we hope Niels documents the process somewhere. Thanks very much, Niels!

 

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Astro Pi: Mission Update 8 – ISS Deployment

Astro_Pi_Logo_WEB

Ed and Izzy

On Monday this week we released the first of four short cartoons that tell the story of the Astro Pi mission. Part 1 introduces Ed and Izzy, the two Astro Pi flight units that are up in space right now.

You may recognise the voice-over: it’s TV science presenter Fran Scott from Absolute Genius and How to be Epic. Thanks Fran!

The Story of Astro Pi (Part 1)

British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake has joined the crew of the International Space Station for Mission Principia – and two specially equipped and tested Raspberry Pi computers are there with him. Find out more at https://astro-pi.org/about/mission/. Narration by Fran Scott: http://franscott.co.uk/

The idea to anthropomorphise the Astro Pis came from Tim Peake himself. He was a fan of what ESA had done previously with Rosetta and Philae’s social media accounts, and felt that this would be a great way to involve young people in the mission.

Ed @astro_pi_vis and Izzy @astro_pi_ir have their own Twitter accounts and will be tweeting about what they’re doing over the coming weeks. They’re named after the real-life friendship between Sir Isaac Newton (Izzy) and Edmond Halley (Ed) which resulted in the publication of the famous 17th-century physics book, Principia Mathematica, after which Tim’s mission is named.

Deployment

On the 4th of January Tim unpacked Ed and took this amazing picture in the Columbus module of the ISS. You can download the original from Tim’s Flickr account.

Tim Peake on Twitter

Look what turned up today…nearly time to start running your code in space! @astro_pi @Raspberry_Pi pic.twitter.com/Dmdjev2BPh

The Astro Pis were originally scheduled to be powered up on the 11th of January; however, it was postponed due to the spacewalks they recently undertook, which rightly take priority over anything educational.

It gives us great pleasure to announce that yesterday Ed was successfully deployed by Tim. He’s powered up and is now running the student experiments that won the 2015 Astro Pi competition.

Ed on Twitter

@astro_timpeake Running Crew Detector code from @cranmerefriends @rdhayler @codeclub

It takes several days to get images back from the ISS because they have to be screened by ESA and NASA for crew privacy reasons. So keep an eye on Tim’s social media accounts over the next few days for pictures of Ed online and working!

Ed is running most of the experiments, but the others will be run by Izzy who will be deployed in the Harmony node of the ISS on February 15th. Izzy needs to look through a hatch window, as she’ll be taking infrared pictures of the Earth – there are no windows in Columbus.

If you enjoy watching the ISS Live Stream you may be able to spot them from time to time!

Flight Data Analysis

Once Ed and Izzy have finished running their student experiments, they will each begin a long-term ISS environmental monitoring experiment that you can all take part in.

They’ll enter a flight recorder mode where they save sensor readings to their own databases every ten seconds. Because the sensor readings are taken so often, there will be masses of data to search through, so we need your help to look through the data and find out what was going on. There could be strange, unexplained things, or just the normal day-to-day activities of the astronauts.

Check out the resource for this below. The data will not be available for several weeks yet, but there is some sample data here for you to practice with.

Astro Pi Flight Data Analysis | Raspberry Pi Learning Resources

Do strange, unexplained things happen on the International Space Station? With this resource you can help us find out. The Astro Pis will be watching… The two Astro Pi flight computers on board the ISS are programmed to run the competition-winning programs as part of an automatic sequence.

New Coding Challenge

It also gives us great pleasure to announce two new coding challenges, where the prize is to have your code uploaded and run by Ed or Izzy in space!

That’s right – your code in space!

The first requires you to write Python Sense HAT code to turn Ed and Izzy into an MP3 player, so that Tim can plug in his headphones and listen to music. The second requires you to code Sonic Pi music for Tim to listen to via the MP3 player. You may enter both challenges if you wish.

Head over to the Astro Pi website now, where you’ll find out everything you need to know.

2016 Coding Challenges – Astro Pi

We are pleased to announce that, from today (03/02/2016), we are running a new set of coding challenges for the Astro Pi mission. There are currently two challenges on offer. What do I have to do? To take part you’ll need to pick a challenge from the list below, read through what’s required, and then …

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Do more with your #PiZero in The MagPi 42

Hi there, Rob from The MagPi again! It’s been a couple of months since we launched issue 40 with the Raspberry Pi Zero attached to the front of it. Since then we’ve seen some excellent projects flying around the internet as you all figure out amazing uses for the tiny Pi.

This picture doesn't do the cover justice, it's lurvly

This picture doesn’t do the cover justice, it’s luverly

To inspire you to do more we’ve put together another feature in The MagPi 42 of Raspberry Pi Zero projects. From useful things like adding a reset switch to more advanced projects to aspire to like a retro games console located entirely inside a SNES controller, there’s projects for everyone to have a go with.

#42 Cover Feature

Do more with your Raspberry Pi Zero with issue 42

As well as these #PiZero projects we also have a feature on the ten best HATs for your Raspberry Pi. Can’t find a HAT you like? Then we also have a tutorial on how to make your very own HAT. Here are some other highlights from this issue:

Highlights from issue 42:

  • Build a binary clock!
    A fun Sense HAT project involving a different style of telling the time
  • 4Borg reviewed
    We look at the new robot kit from the robo-masters over at PiBorg
  • Astro Pi
    What’s happened over the last month as Pi’s are sent to space
  • #PiZero Quadcopter
    We talk to the creator of Zoe the Zero, the first Zero-powered drone
  • And much, much more!

Free Creative Commons download
As always, you can download your copy of The MagPi completely free. Grab it straight from the front page of The MagPi’s website.

Don’t forget, though, that like sales of the Raspberry Pi itself, all proceeds from the print and digital editions of the magazine go to help the Foundation achieve its charitable goals. Help us democratise computing!

Buy in-store
If you want something more tangible to play with, you’ll be glad to hear you can get the print edition in more stores than ever:

WHSmith
Tesco
Sainsbury’s
Asda
And all good newsagents

Order online
Rather shop online? The Raspberry Pi Swag Store has copies that can be delivered practically anywhere in the world.

Subscribe today!
If you still want to start a new subscription with #40, with a free #PiZero and a free cable bundle, you can! Just make sure you select the right option when you sign-up online or over the phone.

See you next month for more MagPi goodness!

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Hiatus

No proper blog post today. Why? We’re living out of boxes, I can’t find my coffee mug, and I’m having to use my phone to tether to the internet.

2016-02-01 11.43.06

Yes, that is a satellite dish.

asd

Roger is trying to use his brain to make the server work. It hasn’t worked yet.

We should be back to normal tomorrow!

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Moving on out

A momentous day: after four years in Mount Pleasant House in Cambridge, we’ve finally outgrown all the available space (insofar as on some days we’re having to sit on each others’ knees), so we’re moving to bigger premises near Cambridge Station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gordon, centre, has so far packed three Rubik’s Cubes and a mug.

A bit of housekeeping: we won’t have internet after about 11.30am today, and we don’t expect the network to be up and running first thing on Monday morning in the new digs. (We’re also going to be spending a lot of today and Monday, and some of the rest of next week, emptying all these boxes.) So if you’re trying to get in touch with someone at Raspberry Pi, please give us a few days to get settled!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Amazing numbers of SD cards and lumps of Blu-tac have been found in our drawers

We’d like to say a big thank you to all of our friends at Mount Pleasant house for being such great neighbours over the years, and especially to the buildings manager Geoff Cooper, who we wish we could take with us.

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Self-driving car

Full disclosure: This car is perhaps not quite as big as the car you envisioned when you read the headline.

img_8988 (1)

 

Zheng Wang from Bridgwater State University has used a Raspberry Pi and some other hardware to modify a remote-controlled (RC) car to follow a track, detect, understand and respond to stop signs and traffic lights, and to avoid collisions. Once scaled up and able to do parallel parking, you’ve got something that looks a bit like Google’s self-driving car project. (A bit.)

Here’s a rather neat technology demo.

OpenCV Python Neural Network Autonomous RC Car

Bridgewater State University COMP 502 Project, May 2015 Self driving RC car: OpenCV neural network – Steering Haar-cascade classifiers – Stop sign and traffic light detection Ultrasonic sensor – Front collision avoidance Raspberry Pi – Data streaming (video and sensor) Arduino – RC car control https://github.com/hamuchiwa/AutoRCCar https://zhengludwig.wordpress.com/projects/self-driving-rc-car/

So what’s happening here? The Pi is hooked up to a Raspberry Pi Camera Module and an ultrasonic sensor. Two client programs on the Pi are used to serve the information it gathers from those devices to another computer over WiFi, with streaming video. The RC controller for the car is given instructions by an Arduino which is hooked up to the computer doing the processing by USB.

Zheng has provided a very detailed writeup, which dives into the maths behind all of this, and provides a look at the neural network on the machine doing the processing.

distant

Geometric model for detecting distance with monocular vision

Head over to his website to have a look – it’s a fascinating read. Thanks Zheng – drop us a line if you take this project any further!

 

 

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The MagPi hits 1 million downloads since relaunch!

It’s always tricky relaunching a product, especially one with an established fanbase. With The MagPi, we did so with the readers in mind, trying to create the best magazine we could for you folks while building off the excellent work of the first 30 issues. We’ve come a long way over the last 11 months; releasing in newsagents around the world and being the first magazine to put a computer on the cover.

The new look for The MagPi last February

The new look for The MagPi last February

Now we have a new milestone, and one that we’re very proud of: one million free downloads of the issues in that time period. It says to us that you like what we do, and that you like the magazine remaining available as a free PDF. This is very important to us, as we’re serving an open-source community dedicated to helping people learn computing and experiment with making.

#40_cover_physical_small

This issue did pretty well for some reason

As we push out physical copies to more countries this year, we’re still making sure that the PDF version of The MagPi is available for everyone. We hope you all enjoy The MagPi in 2016, and we look forward to your next million downloads!

Speaking of which, look out for the latest issue, out now! The MagPi 42 has more Raspberry Pi Zero projects for you to try out, a look at the ten best HATs and a tutorial on how to make your own HAT.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to go celebrate.

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Daphne’s tweeting catflap

Daphne the WonderCat is the feline owner of Kate Bevan, a tech journalist. Daphne is surprisingly active on social media for somebody who doesn’t have opposable thumbs; her Facebook is full of a mixture of (perfectly justified) boasting about her superbosity, and complaints about the inadequacy of her human support team.

Daphne, a very fine cat indeed

Daphne, a very fine cat indeed

Bernie Sumption, an acolyte of Daphne’s, had an observation to make.

Unfortunately, Daphne’s catflap was until recently mute, and couldn’t tell the world about its thoughts and feelings.

This was a pity, because Daphne’s catflap actually has a lot to tell the world. You see, the catflap *loves* daphne. Each time daphne passes through, its universe lights up with joy. Every time Daphne’s whisker brushes against it, a tremor of excitement passes through its little plastic body.

In this project, we gave the catflap a voice.

Each time Daphne walks through, the catflap will take a photo and tweet it, along with a little paean to Daphne’s greatness:

What’s going on here? Bernie describes the technology stack as not so much a stack as a “technology teetering edifice”, and illustrates it thus:

stack

(If you, proud servant to another cat – or multiple cats, want to add another layer of complexity to such a project, you could also look into feline facial recognition with OpenCV, which, as Tomomi Imura demonstrates, turns out to be pretty effective, as long as they’re facing the camera.)

There’s a very nice account of the whole project, including all the wiring and code you’ll need on Bernie’s website. (People who are new to coding and who are interested in a standalone generative grammar project should also check out our Storytelling resource.) Follow the instructions, and your own home decor can produce this sort of thing:

(At the risk of being a massive curmudgeon, I’m a little torn on whether or not to follow Daphne’s Catflap on Twitter. She uses it an awful lot.)

Still, it’s rather pleasing to note that the script is tweaked to allow for seasonality.

Where would we be, internet folks, without cute cats? ADRIFT. That’s where. Please take some time to read Bernie’s extremely entertaining account of this project, tickle your cats between the ears, and let us all give thanks that not everything on Twitter is dreadfully serious.

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Lichen Beacons

We see Raspberry Pi changing the way people teach, the way people make things, and the way they run their businesses. We’ve been particularly charmed to see how many artists use the Pi in their work too. Sometimes in places just on our doorstep.

Photograph courtesy of Krisztian Hofstadter

Photograph courtesy of Krisztian Hofstadter

On Friday, I learned about a new installation at Corpus Christi college chapel here in Cambridge. Pre-Pi, if you were creating an art installation you’d likely be using Mac Minis or a laptop (or three) to perform any computational heavy lifting. The Raspberry Pi has changed the landscape for artists who want to incorporate computation or connectivity into their works: it means the tools available to them are much cheaper, and much smaller.

The makers, Ludion (Tom Hall, Drew Milne and Barry Byford), describe Lichen Beacons as a “site-responsive installation involving spoken word texts, music, and photographs conveyed through a dialogue between Bluetooth beacons and Raspberry Pis with screens and headphones”. Corpus chapel is a place of calm and contemplation (unless you’re Laura, our copy editor, who got married to Pete in there a few years ago to the explosive strains of the Skyrim soundtrack, played on the organ); I can think of few places better for slowing down and taking time to breathe – aided by some thoughtful technology.

Lichen Ohms Seriatim (Trailer)

Short documentary on the installation ‘Lichen Ohms Seriatim’, by Tom Hall, Drew Milne and Barry Byford. Corpus Christi College, Chapel, Cambridge, UK. Part of the Festival of Ideas, 2015-10-24. More information at http://www.ludions.com/projects/lichens/

After I saw this video, I pestered Barry to put some words online about the build process, and the way the poetry, music, ambient sounds and images came together. He’s really outdone himself: there’s an extraordinarily detailed background to the work (including the technical framework) available on Ludion’s website which you should really take some time to read.

This installation is multi-layered, intensely thoughtful and designed to slow down the experience of the person encountering it. I’ll be dropping by to play with and listen to my own Pi inna box later in the week. We could all use a spot of contemplation once in a while.

 

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