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!

Pi Cart: RetroPie in a NES Cartridge

RetroPie builds take up approximately 40% of my daily project searching. Whether it’s across social media, within the depths of YouTube, littering my inbox, or shared across office messaging, I see RetroPie everywhere.

I see… RetroPie

I can look across my desk right this moment and spot two different USB controllers and two RetroPie-imaged SD cards from where I sit. True story.

The mess of Alex's desk

The ‘organised’ clutter-mess of my desk…

Because of this, my attention tends to be drawn away from the inner workings of a gaming build and more toward the aesthetics. After all, if I’ve managed to set up RetroPie, anyone can do it.

When it comes to RetroPie builds, it tends to be the physical casing that really catches my attention. So many makers go the extra mile to build stunning gaming units that really please the eye.

Taking that into consideration, can you really be surprised that I’m writing about the Pi Cart? I mean, c’mon: it’s awesome-looking!

Pi Cart: a Raspberry Pi Retro Gaming Rig in an NES Cartridge

I put a Raspberry Pi Zero (and 2,400 vintage games) into an NES cartridge and it’s awesome. Powered by RetroPie. I also wrote a step-by-step guide on howchoo and a list of all the materials you’ll need to build your own: https://howchoo.com/g/mti0oge5nzk/pi-cart-a-raspberry-pi-retro-gaming-rig-in-an-nes-cartridge

Pi Cart originator Zach offers up a complete how-to for the project, giving all budding gamers and tinkerers the instructions they need to fit a RetroPie-enabled Raspberry Pi Zero into an old NES cartridge.

Using a Raspberry Pi Zero, a four-port USB mini hub (to allow for the use of more than one USB controller), an old NES cartridge, and all the usual gubbins, it’s fairly easy to create your own Pi Cart at minimal cost. 

RetroPie Pi Cart

There are many online guides and videos which give you all the information you need to install RetroPie on the Raspberry Pi, so if you’ve never tried it before and feel a little bit out of your depth, I can assure you that you’ll be fine.

Then all you need is a glue gun (this is possibly the most expensive component of the build!) and an hour or so to go from Zero to retro-gaming Hero!

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Circadia Sunrise Lamp Alarm

Florian loves sleeping and, like many of us, he doesn’t enjoy waking up. Alarm clocks irritate him, and radio alarms can be a musical disappointment, depending on the station.

For many, the lack of sunlight during winter months makes waking up even more of a struggle, with no bright glare through the curtains helping to prise our eyelids apart.

Iiiii… don’t knooooow-aaaaa… what the words reaaaaally aaaaaare…

Picking up on the concept of sunrise alarm clocks, and wanting to incorporate music into the idea, Florian decided to build the Circadia Sunrise Lamp. 

Circadia – sunrise medley

Circadia – sunrise lamp project https://sites.google.com/site/fpgaandco/sunrise Theme summary

Standing just under two metres tall, the lamp consists of three parts: the top section, housing a 3D-printed omnidirectional speaker system and orbiting text display; the midsection, home to 288 independently controlled RGB NeoPixel LEDs; and the bottom section, snugly fitting a midwoofer, Raspberry Pi, audio amp, and power supplies.

SUNRISE LAMP

Florian spent two years, on and off, working on the lamp and it’s fair to say that once he started getting to grips with the Python code, and was able to see the visual results, he became hooked on adding more and more themes. From Manila Sunrise to Sumatra Rain, each theme boasts its own colour cycle and soundtrack, all lasting approximately 40 minutes from start to refreshingly wonderful complete awakening. Florian writes:

[The lamp] makes it quite a bit easier for me to get out of bed every morning (with a silly grin on my face). It’s really surprisingly effective and hard to describe. Rather than being resentful that it is already time to get up, I am now more inclined to be eager to get going. If someone had told me how well this actually works I would have put a sunrise lamp in my bedroom years ago. 

But he didn’t stop there.

As the lamp’s main purpose is to wake Florian up in the morning, it was inevitably spending the majority of the day idle. To tackle this, Florian incorporated a music-reactive light show, plus an interactive version of Tetris because, to quote from makers the world over, “Why not?”

Circadia – Tetris

Circadia – sunrise lamp project https://sites.google.com/site/fpgaandco/sunrise

Florian, in all his brilliant maker glory, has provided an in-depth blog of the Circadia Sunrise Lamp, documenting the processes, the successes, and failures of the build, as well as his continued development of new themes.

We’ve seen a few different sunrise lamps, alarm clocks, and light shows over the years, all using a Raspberry Pi. But this one, combining elegant physical style with well-coded functionality, is certainly one of our favourites.

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Raspberry Pi Air Drum Kit

While perusing a local car boot sale, David Pride came across a Silverlit Air Drum Kit for the grand total of one whole shiny pound. And just like any digital maker, he bought it, realising the potential of this wondrous discovery.

David Pride Air Drum Kit

The original Silverlit Air Drum Kit

David had been recently fiddling with the Python CWiid library, a resource that allows you to use Wii controllers (Wiimotes) with a Raspberry Pi via Bluetooth. However, it was the setup of two controllers to a single Pi that was causing issues:

I’d only ever managed to get one controller working with a single Pi before, so the first challenge was to get a pair of controllers working as the ‘sticks’. That took a lot of mucking about, until I found the excellent post by WiiGate that detailed how to set up two controllers properly, using the MAC addresses. You can find it here.

Once this hurdle had been overcome, David collected a variety of open-source drum sample .wav files from the abundance of sound clips available on the web.

Did you honestly believe we’d get through this entire blog without a single cowbell reference?

David used Tkinter, writing a small app that would allow him to understand the positioning of the controllers, and as a result the data produced. Due to the nature of the controllers, movement wasn’t the only factor to consider. Speed and the way in which the controller was moved were also important. Move the controller quickly, and a different set of data is produced from that generated by a slower motion.

However, David isn’t one to give up and after a (relatively long) while, he had managed to plot positions for four distinct drum sounds:

I initially wanted to get three sounds on each controller, but the movement scale was a bit too tight to do it successfully every time, and two sounds often overlapped. So, I’m using the trigger button on each controller, combined with the movement for one of the sounds. This gives six different drum sounds, three per controller, that can be played without the sounds overlapping.

The final result of David’s tinkering is this wonderful air drum kit that provides a clean, impressive response with every movement. And because he’s such a lovely chap, all the code you need can be found at his GitHub page.

Raspberry Pi Air Drum Kit

Easy Python project using 2 Wii controllers and a Raspberry Pi to create an ‘air drum’ kit

So David, all we need now is the air guitar, air bass and air keyboard, and we’ve got the start of this year’s Christmas Number One.

Band name suggestions welcome…

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talkiepi: A Raspberry Pi Walkie-Talkie

talkiepi walkietalkie

talkiepi is a single-button, push-to-talk walkie-talkie build that allows users to talk with their friends easily over WiFi, without the confusion of frequency dials, random buttons, and all the other clicky, turny, pushy options that caused me to break my own walkie-talkies as a child.

Talkiepi

It’s the brainchild of Daniel Chote, native New Zealander, self-proclaimed Code Monkey and all-round Wonder Dad, currently residing in the USA.

Whereas many parents would simply hop on the internet and purchase their kids a set of walkie-talkies, Daniel decided to make his own.

SPOILERS, SWEETIE. Though not without good reason… for many reported that his son was stuck within a parallel universe… of sorts, literally trapped within their mutual space… kinda… ish. It’s like a tightrope walker but upside down? I think that’s what they said. And… hmmm… oh yeah, he’s only able to communicate via fairy lights and walkie-talkie technology and… eeeerr… I think I need to watch that show again. SPOILERS, SWEETIE.

The talkiepi can be built with or without an enclosure. Though Daniel uses a 3D printer to complete the build, you could use the components as they are, though they wouldn’t look half as good and would be a pain to make portable. But forgoing the case at the start will help you get a better idea of how everything works… so get a little naked to begin with.

Once you’re ready to put everything together, Daniel has provided the files needed for the print. Or, for added awesome, you could utilise any tin or Eggo box you have lying around. 

I’ll have Eleven Eggos, please…

Daniel cannibalised a USB speakerphone for sound and voice, installed a Raspberry Pi 3 in the casing and used a handful of components he already had, including a GPIO header connector, nuts and bolts, and LEDs. A push button with built-in LED acts as the means of activating the talk function of the talkiepi. 

talkiepi

The software for the device runs primarily on Mumble. Mumble allowed Daniel to create groups for the talkiepi, meaning that only those within the group could communicate. And with the added benefit of the Mumble app, those without the talkiepi can still join in with the fun via a smartphone or computer. All you need can be found at Daniel’s GitHub page.

We really like the fun factor of this build. It’s clean, simple and easy to use. On a larger scale, the system could work within more ‘grown up’, professional locations to allow for an easy method of communication. But for now, we’re working out how quickly we can build a set and start make-pretending Stranger Things in the Pi Towers office.

… did anyone else just see the wallpaper ripple?

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The Social Interaction Dress

I came across Clodagh O’Mahony on Instagram, right at the start of my Raspberry Pi employment. As I was starting my new adventure with Pi, so was she… albeit via a somewhat different approach.

ClodaghOMahonyDress

@yodaomahony *sigh* There goes all my (parents’) money. #goodcause tho. #adafruit #thesiscountdown #day82

@raspberrypifoundation What are you planning to make @yodaomahony?

@yodaomahony @raspberrypifoundation I’m building a dress that quantifies real-world social interactions and posts them online. My thesis is a commentary on how much social media affects our actions.

It’s fair to say that our initial interaction had me hooked on the idea of wearable tech that quantified social interactions. So from that moment, I followed her account, checking in on her posts, and then counted down the days until her thesis was due, mainly so I could finally share the build with all of you.

Eventually the Instagram countdown ran its course and last week, as Clodagh announced the end of her project, this long-awaited blog post could finally come to life. And for Clodagh, it meant she had one for us in return

“Since it’s now all over and done with, I’m going to skip the Phase/Part structure and just do a summary write-up of the thesis build. To be honest, I would probably just let it slide and go back to the pre-thesis days of whinging about my hair and Project Runway, but I feel like I owe the Raspberry Pi Foundation something for following me almost all the way through the Instagram countdown.”

(See? Regardless of what people say, my adorable social bullying helps productivity!)

For her thesis, Clodagh built two components of the study: the dress and its accompanying website.

The dress itself houses a Raspberry Pi, fibre optics, an Adafruit 12-Key Capacitive Touch Sensor Breakout and Pimironi Blinkt within a beautiful 3D-printed casing.

Interactive Dress

With the dress split into sectors, lights glow as a body part is touched, thanks to conductive thread… lots of conductive thread. A hand to the waist sets the dress glowing purple, to the hip, green, and so on. 

As the touch sets the lights in action, the dress also registers the interaction via a point system, relaying the data back to the website.

Interactive Dress Website

It’s fair to note now that the dress and website are all part of a thesis study into the way in which we have handed ourselves over to social media, and the idea of celebrities ‘selling themselves’ online, opening their lives to public scrutiny for the good of their career progression. 

Alongside touch, the dress also sets out to award points based on voice. Positive words boast positive colouring across the Blinkt, while negative words do the opposite. Though the device doesn’t record specific speech, it acknowledges words based on a catalogue and awards points accordingly. Points are also granted for profile page views and location, along with multipliers based on how public you make your profile. 

Clodagh OMahony Dress

It genuinely is wonderful to see the dress come to life. Changes along the way were well-documented – at one point, an entirely new dress was created to better fit the purpose – and with the piece now complete, Clodagh can go back to bingeflixing Project Runway and blogging, while I hunt down my next Instagram victim prey target maker.

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World’s smallest working MAME cabinet

We are confident that nobody out there has built a working MAME cabinet that’s any smaller than this. Adafruit’s Phillip Burgess posted this project on Twitter last week, and you guys went absolutely nuts for it. So he’s produced a video, and a quick and dirty explainer so you can make your own.

Miniature MAME cabinet

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you: that backplate is a Pi Zero. You’re going to need tiny elf fingers for this one.

Really: it’s teeny. That OLED screen is only 0.96″.

Phillip’s at pains to point out that their walkthrough is not a complete, step-by-step tutorial of the sort that Adafruit usually provide:

It’s lessons learned during an impromptu weekend hacking session which, to be honest, was a lot of trouble to build and only marginally fun to play, aside from the incredible “gee whiz that’s tiny!” factor. But it may provide insights for others looking to build small gadgets…

You may not enjoy playing it, Phillip, but I’m sure any mice haunting the Adafruit factory will be having a field day.

World’s Smallest MAME Arcade Cabinet @adafruit #adafruit @raspberry_pi

Tempest in a Teacup https://learn.adafruit.com/worlds-smallest-mame-arcade-cabinet —————————————– Visit the Adafruit shop online – http://www.adafruit.com Subscribe to Adafruit on YouTube: http://adafru.it/subscribe Join our weekly Show & Tell on G+ Hangouts On Air: http://adafru.it/showtell Watch our latest project videos: http://adafru.it/latest New tutorials on the Adafruit Learning System: http://learn.adafruit.com/ Music by bartlebeats: http://soundcloud.com/bartlebeats —————————————–

You can find a writeup for what has to be the coolest MAME cabinet build I’ve seen this year at Adafruit. Thanks gang!

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Face-tracking fan

Today’s downpour notwithstanding, the UK has just experienced its hottest September day since 1911. Here at Pi Towers, we were acutely aware of this. The office roared with the noise from sixty-odd CPU fans at full tilt. The air conditioning conked out. And things got especially bad when we realised that it was buy-one-get-one-free day at the local noodle place, which meant we were also trying to justify the eating of hot food in an office that was feeling a lot like one of those spa steam rooms, but stinkier.

nerd-sweat

Artist’s rendering of the general situation at Pi Towers for much of this week

Sensible people would have engineered their way out of this mess, like DevinL9 (please let us know your real name in the comments if you’d like us to use it here). DevinL9 is the possessor of an internet statistic: he reckons that a full-sized human can produce between two and four litres of sweat in an hour.

This is disgusting, so DevinL9 has come up with a nice little OpenCV hack to evaporate as much of it as possible. This is a “use what you have” hack: it’s not beautiful, but it’s effective, and if your desk is anything like mine you’ve probably got almost everything you need for the build in a drawer. Meet the fan that recognises your face, and swivels to track it.

f0vlf4ciscbemgc-large

Meet FanBot. Devin L9 says:

Welcome FanBot, the personal desktop fan that follows your face and keeps you cool when things are getting a little too spicy!

This is more of a proof of concept than a finished beautified product. It is for a intermediate developer. However, I wouldn’t write yourself off if you’re a beginner, it’ll just be a little more difficult. That being said, this project will get you a working version of openCV 3.0.0 on the Raspberry Pi 2 (RPi). [Liz notes: or any other model of Raspberry Pi! ] It will teach you a little about pulse width modulation (PWM) and how to control a servo with the general purpose input/output (GPIO) pins on the RPi. Let me know if you have problems. I’ll do my best to fix anything. It should be noted that this is not going to be a completely optimized solution in code or execution. The purpose of this project is to get a simple working version of openCV, play around with it by means of face detection, and move a servo so that a small fan can cool you off!

It works, too. There’s a complete build diary and full parts list and instructions, including all the code you’ll need, over at Instructables.

No soldering’s required: just breadboard and superglue for mounting. What are you waiting for?

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Beyond the bookcase

This column is from The MagPi issue 49. You can download a PDF of the full issue for free or subscribe to receive the print edition in your mailbox or the digital edition on your tablet. All proceeds from the print and digital editions help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve its charitable goals.

Seattle Central Library (photo by Bobak Ha'Eri)

Seattle Central Library (photo by Bobak Ha’Eri)

Before I became a part of the maker movement, my impression of a library was mostly formed by my childhood experiences there. Both my school and local public library were places for books, magazines, newspapers, and research. In short, it was a place for quiet reading. Libraries today look and sound a lot different than I remember. Many now include makerspaces, tools for connected learning, and spaces for community gathering.

But if you take a closer look at what these institutions set out to accomplish in the first place, then the reason they’ve transformed becomes clear. Take, for instance, the mission of the Seattle Public Library, which is to “[bring] people, information, and ideas together to enrich lives and build community.” The mission of the library isn’t directly related to reading, even though reading can be a big part of achieving that mission.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the central branch of the Seattle Public Library. The fifth floor is called ‘The Mixing Chamber’ and is a designated location where people, information, and ideas can come together. Of course, there’s plenty of material to read at the main branch of the Seattle Public Library, but this building in particular makes it very clear that they’re about more than just reading.

As another indication of this, we see a lot of interest in Raspberry Pi from librarians. A group of us recently visited the annual conference of the American Library Association in Orlando, and the reaction to our presence there was incredibly positive. Not only have many librarians heard of Raspberry Pi, but they also use it in so many ways.

Of course, library makerspaces use Raspberry Pi just like any other makerspace would: as a platform for DIY projects. There are even many libraries that create Raspberry Pi checkout kits so that their patrons can experiment with Raspberry Pi in their own time, either in the library or at home.

And just as Raspberry Pi is used in the classroom to learn about computing, it’s also being used in the library for the very same reason. We’ve had many librarians come to our Picademy educator professional development programme to learn about teaching people with digital making and computing. These librarians have gone on to share their knowledge and our learning resources with their patrons. Librarians especially love that our content, including The MagPi, is available online entirely for free, and is Creative Commons licensed.

Multitasking

What I particularly like about the librarians I’ve encountered is that they don’t just put Raspberry Pi in the hands of their patrons, but they use our computers as a tool for their own work. For instance, I recently met Richard Loomis from the Somerset County Library System in New Jersey. He uses Raspberry Pis for networked digital signage across a few different branches. And John Jakobsen from the Palos Verdes Library District recently shared how he set up Raspberry Pis as terminals for their public access catalogue, replacing old and expensive computers. So librarians don’t just talk the talk: they also walk the walk.

I’m optimistic that libraries will continue to thrive as technology changes. At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we’re delighted to see that libraries all over the world use our computers for digital making, education, and utility. Our organisation’s connection with libraries will always be rich and meaningful, not only because of the way they use Raspberry Pi, but because we have something critical in common with them: we deeply value accessibility and community.

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Picademy Expands in the United States

By all accounts, the pilot expansion of Picademy to the United States has been a huge success. In fact, we’ve already held three workshops and inducted 120 new Raspberry Pi Certified Educators on U.S. soil. So far we’ve had two workshops in Mountain View, CA and one in Baltimore, MD.

28885300572_acb19e2777_o

In December, we’ll wrap up our 2016 program with a workshop at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas in Austin. If you’re an educator and you’d like to join us for two days of mind-blowing professional development, please apply now.

And it gets even better. To build on the success of the pilot program, we are excited to announce that we will expand Picademy in the United States to over 300 educators and additional cities in 2017. In fact, we’re making this announcement as a commitment to President Obama to join the Computer Science For All initiative, a call to action to expand CS education in K-12 classrooms in the United States. And today, the White House hosts a summit to mark progress on the initiative:

The case for giving all students access to CS is straightforward. Nine in ten parents want CS taught at their child’s school and yet, by some estimates, only a quarter of K-12 schools offer a CS course with programming included. However, the need for such skills across industries continues to rapidly grow, with 51 percent of all science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs projected to be in CS-related field by 2018.

If you’re a professional educator, we want you to join us at a Picademy workshop. We haven’t yet selected the cities for 2017’s program, but please fill out this form to receive an update when we announce new cities and when applications open.

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Raspberry Pi Chiptune Player

I have been staring at a blank screen for whole minutes. There are no words for just how much I love this project. I’ve already been on eBay to find a General Instrument AY-3-8910 series sound chip so I can play with one myself. Before we get into details, feast your ears.

vmw ay-3-8910 ym player

Raspeberry Pi Driving an AY-3-8910 sound chip It’s playing “intro2.ym” by Surgeon (Aleksy Lutsenko) More details on the setup can be found here: http://www.deater.net/weave/vmwprod/hardware/ay-3-8910/

What’s going on here? The Raspberry Pi is playing chiptunes by serving the files directly on to a AY-3-8910 (brought direct to you from the 1980s), while doing some rather jolly LED visualisation too.

The AY-3-8910 is no longer made: it was a piece of kit you’d find in most arcade machines, games consoles and home computers in the 1980s (if you had a ZX Spectrum, an Amstrad CPC or an Apple II, you’ll be familiar with its gorgeously grungy bleeps and bloops). Nowadays there’s dwindling stock that goes to service old machines, or to make entirely new things that’ll play chiptunes – like this beast.

chiptune player

Vince Weaver, the maker, says:

The AY-3-8910 is fairly straightforward. Three channels of square waves plus various noise and envelope effects. Provide a clock (1MHz in our case) and there are 16 (well, 14) on-chip registers you write to. Just put the address then the 8 bit value on the bus, toggle the 3 bus control pins, and you are set. You’ll want to do this fairly fast. A typical YM music file wants you to write all 14 registers every 50Hz.

I use the Pi’s GPIOs to shift an 8 bit value into a shift register. Then I use a few more to drive the control bus.

Visualization is done with some i2c LED displays.

The amplifier is an LM386 design from the AY-3-8910 datasheet.

Vince has plans to make some improvements (adding stereo, printing a PCB, swapping out for a better amplifier, using SPI to drive the shift register instead of GPIO and refining the software), but even in this prototype version, this is a piece of kit I’d love to have on my desk. Fortunately, we can replicate the project: everything you need is on Vince’s website and on GitHub. Thanks Vince!

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