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!

Introducing PIXEL

It was just over two years ago when I walked into Pi Towers for the first time. I only had the vaguest idea of what I was going to be doing, but on the first day Eben and I sat down and played with the Raspbian desktop for half an hour, then he asked me “do you think you can make it better?”

origdesk

Bear in mind that at this point I’d barely ever used Linux or Xwindows, never mind made any changes to them, so when I answered “hmmm – I think so”, it was with rather more confidence than I actually felt. It was obvious that there was a lot that could be done in terms of making it a better experience for the user, and I spent many years working in user interface design in previous jobs. But I had no idea where to start in terms of changing Raspbian. I clearly had a bit of a learning curve in front of me…

Well, that was two years ago, and I’ve learnt an awful lot since then. It’s actually surprisingly easy to hack about with the LXDE desktop once you get your head around what all the bits do, and since then I’ve been slowly chipping away at the bits that I felt would most benefit from tweaking. Stuff has slowly been becoming more and more like my original concept for the desktop; with the latest changes, I think the desktop has reached the point where it’s a complete product in its own right and should have its own name. So today, we’re announcing the release of the PIXEL desktop, which will ship with the Foundation’s Raspbian image from now on.

newdesk

PIXEL?

One of the things I said (at least partly in jest) to my colleagues in those first few weeks was that I’d quite like to rename the desktop environment once it was a bit more Pi-specific, and I had the name “pixel” in my mind about two weeks in. It was a nice reminder of my days learning to program in BASIC on the Sinclair ZX81; nowadays, everything from your TV to your phone has pixels on it, but back then it was a uniquely “computer-y” word and concept. I also like crosswords and word games, and once it occurred to me that “pixel” could be made up from the initials of words like Pi and Xwindows, the name stuck in my head and never quite went away. So PIXEL it is, which now officially stands for “Pi Improved Xwindows Environment, Lightweight”.

What’s new?

The latest set of changes are almost entirely to do with the appearance of the desktop; there are some functional changes and a few new applications, about which more below, but this is mostly about making things look nicer.

The first thing you’ll notice on rebooting is that the trail of cryptic boot messages has (mostly) gone, replaced by a splash screen. One feature which has frequently been requested is an obvious version number for our Raspbian image, and this can now be seen at the bottom-right of the splash image. We’ll update this whenever we release a new version of the image, so it should hopefully be slightly easier to know exactly what version you’re running in future.

splash

I should mention that the code for the splash screen has been carefully written and tested, and should not slow down the Pi’s boot process; the time to go from powering on to the desktop appearing is identical, whether the splash is shown or not.

Desktop pictures

Once the desktop appears, the first thing you’ll notice is the rather stunning background image. We’re very fortunate in that Greg Annandale, one of the Foundation’s developers, is also a very talented (and very well-travelled) photographer, and he has kindly allowed us to use some of his work as desktop pictures for PIXEL. There are 16 images to choose from; you can find them in /usr/share/pixel-wallpaper/, and you can use the Appearance Settings application to choose which one you prefer. Do have a look through them, as Greg’s work is well worth seeing! If you’re curious, the EXIF data in each image will tell you where it was taken.

desk2

desk3

desk1

Icons

You’ll also notice that the icons on the taskbar, menu, and file manager have had a makeover. Sam Alder and Alex Carter, the guys responsible for all the cartoons and graphics you see on our website, have been sweating blood over these for the last few months, with Eben providing a watchful eye to make sure every pixel was exactly the right colour! We wanted something that looked businesslike enough to be appropriate for those people who use the Pi desktop for serious work, but with just a touch of playfulness, and Sam and Alex did a great job. (Some of the icons you don’t see immediately are even nicer; it’s almost worth installing some education or engineering applications just so those categories appear in the menu…)

menu

Speaking of icons, the default is now not to show icons in individual application menus. These always made menus look a bit crowded, and didn’t really offer any improvement in usability, not least because it wasn’t always that obvious what the icon was supposed to represent… The menus look cleaner and more readable as a result, since the lack of visual clutter now makes them easier to use.

Finally on the subject of icons, in the past if your Pi was working particularly hard, you might have noticed some yellow and red squares appearing in the top-right corner of the screen, which were indications of overtemperature or undervoltage. These have now been replaced with some new symbols that make it a bit more obvious what’s actually happening; there’s a lightning bolt for undervoltage, and a thermometer for overtemperature.

Windows

If you open a window, you’ll see that the window frame design has now changed significantly. The old window design always looked a bit dated compared to what Apple and Microsoft are now shipping, so I was keen to update it. Windows now have a subtle curve on the corners, a cleaner title bar with new close / minimise / maximise icons, and a much thinner frame. One reason the frame was quite thick on the old windows was so that the grab handles for resizing were big enough to find with the mouse. To avoid this problem, the grab handles now extend slightly outside the window; if you hold the mouse pointer just outside the window which has focus, you’ll see the pointer change to show the handle.

window

Fonts

Steve Jobs said that one thing he was insistent on about the Macintosh was that its typography was good, and it’s true that using the right fonts makes a big difference. We’ve been using the Roboto font in the desktop for the last couple of years; it’s a nice-looking modern font, and it hasn’t changed for this release. However, we have made it look better in PIXEL by including the Infinality font rendering package. This is a library of tweaks and customisations that optimises how fonts are mapped to pixels on the screen; the effect is quite subtle, but it does give a noticeable improvement in some places.

Login

Most people have their Pi set up to automatically log in when the desktop starts, as this is the default setting for a new install. For those who prefer to log in manually each time, the login screen has been redesigned to visually match the rest of the desktop; you now see the login box (known as the “greeter”) over your chosen desktop design, with a seamless transition from greeter to desktop.

login

Wireless power switching

One request we have had in the past is to be able to shut off WiFi and/or Bluetooth completely, particularly on Pi 3. There are now options in the WiFi and Bluetooth menus to turn off the relevant devices. These work on the Pi 3’s onboard wireless hardware; they should also work on most external WiFi and Bluetooth dongles.

You can also now disconnect from an associated wireless access point by clicking on its entry in the WiFi menu.

New applications

There are a couple of new applications now included in the image.

RealVNC have ported their VNC server and viewer applications to Pi, and they are now integrated with the system. To enable the server, select the option on the Interfaces tab in Raspberry Pi Configuration; you’ll see the VNC menu appear on the taskbar, and you can then log in to your Pi and control it remotely from a VNC viewer.

The RealVNC viewer is also included – you can find it from the Internet section of the Applications menu – and it allows you to control other RealVNC clients, including other Pis. Have a look here on RealVNC’s site for more information.

vnc

Please note that if you already use xrdp to remotely access your Pi, this conflicts with the RealVNC server, so you shouldn’t install both at once. If you’re updating an existing image, don’t run the sudo apt-get install realvnc-vnc-server line in the instructions below. If you want to use xrdp on a clean image, first uninstall the RealVNC server with sudo apt-get purge realvnc-vnc-server before installing xrdp. (If the above paragraph means nothing to you, then you probably aren’t using xrdp, so you don’t have to worry about any of it!)

Also included is the new SenseHAT emulator, which was described in a blog post a couple of weeks ago; have a look here for all the details.

sensehat

Updates

There are updates for a number of the built-in applications; these are mostly tweaks and bug fixes, but there have been improvements made to Scratch and Node-RED.

One more thing…

We’ve been shipping the Epiphany web browser for the last couple of years, but it’s now starting to show its age. So for this release (and with many thanks to Gustav Hansen from the forums for his invaluable help with this), we’re including an initial release of Chromium for the Pi. This uses the Pi’s hardware to accelerate playback of streaming video content.

chromium

We’ve preinstalled a couple of extensions; the uBlock Origin adblocker should hopefully keep intrusive adverts from slowing down your browsing experience, and the h264ify extension forces YouTube to serve videos in a format which can be accelerated by the Pi’s hardware.

Chromium is a much more demanding piece of software than Epiphany, but it runs well on Pi 2 and Pi 3; it can struggle slightly on the Pi 1 and Pi Zero, but it’s still usable. (Epiphany is still installed in case you find it useful; launch it from the command line by typing “epiphany-browser”.)

How do I get it?

The Raspbian + PIXEL image is available from the Downloads page on our website now. Note that the uncompressed image is over 4GB in size, and some older unzippers will fail to decompress it properly. If you have problems, use 7-Zip on Windows and The Unarchiver on Mac – both are free applications which have been tested to decompress the file correctly.

To update an existing Jessie image, type the following at the command line:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install -y rpi-chromium-mods
sudo apt-get install -y python-sense-emu python3-sense-emu
sudo apt-get install -y python-sense-emu-doc realvnc-vnc-viewer

and then reboot.

If you don’t use xrdp and would like to use the RealVNC server to remotely access your Pi, type the following:

sudo apt-get install -y realvnc-vnc-server

As always, your feedback on the new release is very welcome; feel free to let us know what you think in the comments or on the forums.

201 Comments

Pi-powered Mansfield Holiday Zoom Movie Camera

When John Sichi discovered a Mansfield Holiday Zoom movie camera on Yerdle, he was instantly transported back to a childhood of making home movies with his family.

The camera was fully operational, but sadly the lens was damaged. 

With the cost of parts, film, and development an unreasonable expense, John decided to digitise the camera using a Raspberry Pi Zero and Pi Camera Module.

Pi-powered Mansfield Holiday Zoom Movie Camera

To fit the Pi in place, John was forced to pull out the inner workings; unfortunately, this meant he had to lose the nostalgic whirring noise of the inner springs, which would originally have spun as the movie was recorded.

Using a scrap piece of metal, he was able to create a stop/start button from the existing trigger: hold it down to record, and release to stop.

A USB battery pack provides power to the Pi, while bits of LEGO and Sugru hold it in place. 

Pi-powered Mansfield Holiday Zoom Movie Camera

John decided to mount the Camera Module externally, as he did not want to risk damaging the body of the Mansfield. A further upgrade would aim to use a camera with functional lens, thereby fully incorporating the new tech with the old functionality. 

Code for the camera is available via GitHub, while sample footage from the camera can be found below. As you can see, the build works beautifully, and that retro image quality is incredibly evocative. Great work, John! 

Holiday Pi retrocamera

Uploaded by jsichi on 2016-09-14.

 

7 Comments

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!

10 Comments

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.

6 Comments

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…

18 Comments

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?

19 Comments

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.

4 Comments

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!

12 Comments

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) Devin LaCrosse. Devin 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 Devin 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 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?

5 Comments

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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