China press and community tour

As you might have spotted, if you follow us on Twitter, Eben and I spent the last week and a bit touring China, meeting the Raspberry Pi community there and giving interviews to the press, with some sterling organisational help from our friends at RS Components. (A special and huge thank you to Eric Lee, without whom we’d have been absolutely stuffed. Mostly with delicious pork confections and noodles, but stuffed nonetheless.)

Here’s what we got up to.

First up, there were a lot of press conferences to give, with help from the excellent William, our simultaneous translator; after a week of doing this, we ended up with more than 100 pieces of media being written or recorded about Raspberry Pi across China. This one, in Shanghai, is pretty typical.

Press conference

We noticed that the tech press in China is incredibly well-educated; a lot of these journalists trained as engineers and then moved into publishing. (And everywhere we went, at least 50% of the technical journalists were women – something I wish we’d emulate in the west.)

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We went to a Raspberry Jam in Shanghai, held at RS Components’ offices. We met some great people (Kevin Deng and the gang from 52pi.cn, a Chinese website dedicated to the Raspberry Pi, actually followed us on to the next event in Shenzhen as well), who’d built some amazing projects.

Shanghai Jam

The robot on our desk is LIDAR (laser radar)-equipped, from DFrobot. We’re listening to a talk about open source from David Li, one of China’s most famous open source pioneers. Eric Lee from RS is on the right.

lidarbot

This laser-etcher is one of the projects the 52pi gang had brought along; you can buy lasers for this sort of project off the shelf in China, where the integrity of your eyeball is your own responsibility. I’ve got a couple of coasters with our logo on them on my desk at the moment, made using this machine.

laser etcher

Jackie Li gave an amazing talk about the projects he’s made at home – cameras streaming to remote screens, a simplified media centre for his grandma, robots – and this excellent LED persistence of vision device for displaying reminders in the kitchen.

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We flew out next to Shenzhen, where hundreds of people turned up for a Raspberry Jam, and where we did more press conferences and more interviews. Before we left for China, I’d been worried that the community base would be smaller than we’re used to. It turned out to be almost too large for us to deal with in the time we’d had allotted in each location.

Shenzhen Jam

It got a bit hard to move in Shenzhen for all the people wanting a photo. We saw some great presentations (one of which, from Martin Liu, who describes himself as a living-room maker, demonstrated the work we sponsored to get the XBMCmenu working in new fonts – including Chinese. It’s at the back of the photo here, behind all the people with cameras.)

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We met a lot of Shenzhen makers who are also entrepreneurs; on the left here is Zoe from Seeed Studio. Eben’s holding some sensors from their Grove project, which works with Raspberry Pi.

seeed

This young gentleman had a robot to show us, controlled with Scratch (on the desk to the right), and a poster for Eben about Pi-controlled brewing. He was terribly shy, and I really wanted to give him a hug, but suspected that might have made matters worse.

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We managed to get about an hour at the enormous electronics market in Shenzhen with Eric, where we had some fun looking at components and working out if we could lower the bill of materials cost in the Pi itself. Unfortunately, it’s so big you need at least a week to work your way around the place; we plan to return.

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Next stop, Taipei. We started off at Noise Kitchen, where we met a group from CaveDu, a local hacker group. The robot in the middle was being prepared for the next day’s Jam at Tatung university – the display shows how many likes CaveDu’s Facebook page has.

CaveDu

These guys hung around for HOURS to meet us, for which we’re very grateful; our plane was delayed six hours, and we didn’t get there until nearly 11pm. I met a home-made laptop with a removable wireless keyboard (a clever way to get around the hinge problem), and made a new best friend.

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First thing the next morning, we headed out to Tatung university.

tatung uni jam

We were expecting a few tens of people, having failed to learn our lesson from Shenzhen. More than 250 people turned up.

tatung crowd

Among the crowd was my new best friend from the night before. We do not have a language in common, but we bonded over high-fives and fist-bumps.

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It was HOT; about 33C in the shade. And unfortunately, the air conditioning in the building got turned off an hour or so in, so we get damper and damper as these photos progress and the temperature climbs well above 40C.

We met a self-balancing robot in a hamster ball.

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We bumped into an old friend. (The beer is there for thermal reasons.)

Rapiro

Eben got interviewed, sweaty, by Taiwanese TV.

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And this is my other new best friend, Liang Chih Chiang, who gave a presentation (which he’s very kindly translated for me so you can all read it) about our community and social media – a subject that’s very close to my heart, for obvious reasons.

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We saw some amazing projects, like this gaming machine…

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…this Pi-powered 3d printer…

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…and this, which I was never able to get close enough to to find out what it does. I think it might be a musical instrument. Or possibly a cocktail machine.

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Any suggestions, anybody?

We had a wonderful, exhausting, wonderful time. Thanks so much to everybody who came to see us; and an especial thanks to Eric, Desiree, Soo Chun, Katherine and the rest of the RS gang, who looked after us so well. We hope we’ll be back in a year or so – and until then, here’s a picture of a bit of press that I can’t read, but that’s made me laugh more than anything else that’s been published about us this year.

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30 comments

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Looks like a fun but thoroughly knackering trip. That electronics market in Shenzhen is awesomeisn’t it – like being inside ebay?

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I bet the Pi costs the Chinese equivalent of £5, in China ^_^

They’re laughing at the price we pay, I bet.

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Not at all – a lot of the people we met were asking how we make it available to them so cheaply!

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Glad that you could come to Taiwan and had a talk with me.

Wish you had a good time visiting Asia.

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Looks like a great trip!

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I missed you guys! I’m here in Xiamen International School starting up a MakerSpace fueled by Pi’s. See you guys next time!

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So what do you guys think about Chinese copying the Raspberry Pi?
Thinking of the Banana Pi…

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Well, that thing’s actually a big breach of trademark law, but I’m afraid we can’t really talk about it because our lawyers are working on it at the moment. TBH, there’s not much *point* in copying the Pi; because we’re a not for profit our margins are much slimmer than people running a for-profit business can tolerate, so copying it’s not a good way for people to make money.

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I don’t understand the problem – their hardware is different to yours, uses different CPU.. etc. The only thing I can see which is the same – at a cursory glance – is the word “Pi”, and I wasn’t aware that you can copyright that… am I missing something?

Thanks.

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It is trademark law not copyright law. It is to protect companies and consumers from unscrupulous people trying to make themselves sound legit by taking a name too similar to an established product and/or company.

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Like Acorn, Apple, Apricot, Blackberry, Tangerine, etc? No, no-one has ever named a computer after a fruit, before ;)

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Liz said “we can’t really talk about it” I expect she meant it. So asking further questions about it is fairly pointless.

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Got it in one, I’m afraid.

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I’d guess it’s not that ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ xD

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Wow, What a Wonderful WhirlWind of a Week! :)

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Thank you Eben and Liz, and indeed to all those who took their time out to share their minds with other fellow Pi users, exchanging experience and explaining how user-friendly the Pi is. It’s not easy with model B+ just out for a month, lots of things to monitor and followup, but you both chose to come in the hottest season, and returned home happily with some free gifts from Shenzhen electronics market! Nice! We look forward to adventuring other parts of Asia with you in the future! :) cheers! ekhlee

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Welcome back to Taiwan any time! :D

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Why do you delete comments that you don’t agree with? Are you afraid of opinion, possibly opinion which could well turn out to be true?

Seems like you’re afraid of things which sound too much like reality.

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Matt, your comment got deleted because we don’t want it messing with our legal work, and we don’t want to encourage mad speculation about what’s actually a very well established point of law. (And because it was downright wrong – you might want to preface your opinions with a statement that you’re not a lawyer.) Can you keep it to a dull roar, please? I don’t want to have to use the banhammer.

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Apologies, I had a big opinion backed by little fact. Sorry.

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PS: If you want help regarding copyright, you should contact Richard Stallman @ FSF.org (Mr GNU himself) – he’s many, many years of research and lectures on copyright and trademarking/IP, and has more knowledge on it than half the planet. I’ve watched many hours worth of his lectures over the last 10 years, and he’s the man when it comes to what’s what in copyrighting and trademarks – I’m sure you’ve heard of him?

https://stallman.org/

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We know Richard Stallman well, and quite frequently correspond with him: Eben Moglen too. (We’re quite old hands at this stuff!) We have a very strong team at Olswang which works for us on issues like this; one of our trustees is also a partner there. No paucity of legal connections round these parts, happily. But thanks for the response!

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Brill :)

You’re welcome Liz, and I am sorry I spoke out of turn. God bless you :-)

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No probs. ;)

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Look FUN ~ how about malaysia?

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Maybe next year. (I’ve got family in Malaysia, so we do visit quite often, but usually not for work!)

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“next year” is now ~ hahah

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Great trip/article, I read it with great interest.

That article at the end? …. is it discussing the similarities between Eben Upton and Jason Statham?! Separated at birth I hear….

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Nice to know you’ve been to China – by coincidence I have been using my Raspberry Pi to (1) practice Chinese vocabulary and (2) run a transcoding proxy that helps me add Pinyin phonetic transcriptions to Chinese web pages. I guess you have rather a lot of other things to do before the next trip and so won’t be learning a lot of Chinese, but if you want to learn a little on the Raspberry Pi it can be done.

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Hi Silas! Thanks for that; and it’s been *years* – nice of you to come and comment!

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