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!

Portable retro CRT game console: the one-thumb entertainment system

OTES is the one-thumb entertainment system that, unsurprisingly, requires only one thumb to play.

One-Thumb Entertainment System

Uploaded by gocivici on 2019-04-29.

Retro handheld gaming

Straight out the bat, I have to admit that had this existed in the 80s, it would have been all I played with. OTES oozes gaming nostalgia, and the constant clicking would have driven my mother mad, as did the tap tap tap of my Game Boy or NES controller.

Designed to play PICO8 games, with its developers eager to see more people create one-button controlled games for the console, OTES replaces the concept of game cartridges with individual SD cards, allowing for players to swap out games as they would have with a Nintendo Game Boy, SEGA Game Gear, Atari Lynx, and other stand-alone cartridge consoles.

Building OTES

As mentioned, OTES uses the PICO-8 environment at its core and runs on a Raspberry Pi Zero W with interchangeable SD cards. And as the games designed for the project only require one button, it makes for a fairly simple setup.

For the body, the project’s maker, govinci, sources an old JVC video camera in order to cannibalise the CRT viewfinder.

The most important thing first. You have to find an old camcorder which has a CRT viewfinder. It’s usually easy to tell if a camcorder has a CRT viewfinder since it’s a bulky part sticking off the side of the camcorder. I found this viewfinder on an old JVC camcorder which I bought from the flea market. To test the viewfinder I used a 9v battery to power up the camcorder. There was no image on the viewfinder but I got a static white noise which is enough to tell if the viewfinder works.

The CRT viewfinder (that’s it to the right of the battery) was then connected to the Raspberry Pi and power source, and nestled snugly into a 3D-printed body.

Close the case up, turn on the Pi, and boom: one working, single-button console game player with a very personal point of view.

Govinci says:

Currently, It has one game called ODEF (Ocean Defender) developed by me and my friends. (You can play it here.) And I hope there will be many others as people develop games that can be played with only one button on this platform.

You heard the man: go get developing. (I can think of plenty of circumstances where only needing one free finger to fit in a spot of gaming would be really, really convenient.) You can make your own console by following the build diary at Instructables. Let us know if you give it a whirl!

6 Comments

Recreate iconic 1980s game explosions | Wireframe issue 12

Rik Cross, Senior Learning Manager here at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, shows you how to recreate the deadly explosions in the classic game, Bomberman.

An early incarnation of Bomberman on the NES; the series is still going strong today under Konami’s wing.

Creating Bomberman

Bomberman was first released in the early 1980s as a tech demo for a BASIC compiler, but soon became a popular series that’s still going today. Bomberman sees players use bombs to destroy enemies and uncover doors behind destructible tiles. In this article, I’ll show you how to recreate the bombs that explode in four directions, destroying parts of the level as well as any players in their path!

The game level is a tilemap stored as a two-dimensional array. Each tile in the map is a Tile object, which contains the tile type, and corresponding image. For simplicity, a tile can be set to one of five types; GROUND, WALL, BRICK, BOMB, or EXPLOSION. In this example code, BRICK and GROUND can be exploded with bombs, but WALL cannot, but of course, this behaviour can be changed.

Each Tile object also has a timer, which is decremented each frame of the game. When a tile’s timer reaches 0, an action is carried out, which is dependent on the tile type. BOMB tiles (and surrounding tiles) turn into EXPLOSION tiles after a short delay, and EXPLOSION tiles eventually turn back into GROUND. At the start of the game, the tilemap for the level is generated, in this case consisting of mostly GROUND, with some WALL and a couple of BRICK tiles. The player starts off in the top-left tile, and moves by using the arrow keys. Pressing the SPACE key will place a bomb in the player’s current tile, which is achieved by setting the Tile at the player’s position to BOMB. The tile’s timer is also set to a small number, and once this timer is decremented to 0, the bomb tile and the tiles around it are set to EXPLOSION.

Here’s Rik’s example code, which recreates Bomberman’s explosions in Python. To get it running on your system, you’ll first need to install Pygame Zero — you can find full instructions here. And you can download the code here.

The bomb explodes outwards in four directions, with a range determined by the RANGE, which in our code is 3. As the bomb explodes out to the right, for example, the tile to the right of the bomb is checked. If such a tile exists (i.e. the position isn’t out of the level bounds) and can be exploded, then the tile’s type is set to EXPLOSION and the next tile to the right is checked. If the explosion moves out of the level bounds, or hits a WALL tile, then the explosion will stop radiating in that direction. This process is then repeated for the other directions.

There’s a nice trick for exploding the bomb without repeating the code four times, and it relies on the sine and cosine values for the four direction angles. The angles are 0° (up), 90° (right), 180° (down) and 270° (left). When exploding to the right (at an angle of 90°), sin(90) is 1 and cos(90) is 0, which corresponds to the offset direction on the x- and y-axis respectively. These values can be multiplied by the tile offset, to explode the bomb in all four directions.

Get your copy of Wireframe issue 12

You can read the rest of the feature in Wireframe issue 12, available now at Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy Wireframe directly from Raspberry Pi Press – delivery is available worldwide. And if you’d like a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download issue 12 for free in PDF format.

Make sure to follow Wireframe on Twitter and Facebook for updates and exclusives. Subscribe on the Wireframe website to save up to 49% compared to newsstand pricing!

1 Comment

‘Gender Balance in Computing’ research project launch

I am excited to reveal that a consortium of partners has been awarded £2.4 million for a new research project to investigate how to engage more girls in computing, as part of our work with the National Centre for Computing Education. The award comes at a crucial time in computing education, after research by the University of Roehampton and the Royal Society recently found that only 20% of computing candidates for GCSE and 10% for A level Computer Science were girls.

The project will investigate ways to make computing more inclusive.

The project

‘Gender Balance in Computing’ is a collaboration between the consortium of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, STEM Learning, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, and the Behavioural Insights Team. Our partners, Apps for Good and WISE, will also be working on the project. Trials will run from 2019–2022 in Key Stages 1–4, and more than 15,000 students and 550 schools will be involved. It will be the largest national research effort to tackle this issue to date!

Our research around gender balance has many synergies with the work of the wider National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) programme, which also focuses on pedagogy and widening participation. We will also be working with NCCE Computing Hubs when planning and implementing the trials.

How it will work

‘Gender Balance in Computing’ will develop and roll out several projects that aim to increase the number of girls choosing to study a computing subject at GCSE and A level. The consortium has already identified some of the possible reasons why a large percentage of girls don’t consider computing as the right choice for further study and potential careers. These include: feeling that they don’t belong in the subject; not being sufficiently encouraged; and feeling that computing is not relevant to them. We will go on to research and pilot a series of new interventions, with each focusing on addressing a different barrier to girls’ participation.

We will also trial initiatives such as more inclusive pedagogical approaches to teaching computing to facilitate self-efficacy, and relating informal learning opportunities, which are often popular with girls, to computing as an academic subject or career choice.

Signposting the links between informal and formal learning is one of the interventions that will be trialled.

Introducing our partners

WISE works to increase the participation, contribution, and success of women in the UK’s scientific, technology, and engineering (STEM) workforce. Since 1984, they have supported young women into careers in STEM, and are committed to raising aspirations and awareness for girls in school to help them achieve their full potential. In the past three years, their programmes have inspired more than 13,500 girls.

The Behavioural Insights Team have worked with governments, local authorities, businesses and charities to tackle major policy problems. They generate and apply behavioural insights to inform policy and improve public services.

Apps for Good has impacted more than 130,000 young people in 1500 schools and colleges across the UK since their foundation in 2010. They are committed to improving diversity within the tech sector, engaging schools within deprived and challenging contexts, and enthusing girls to pursue a pathway in computing; in 2018, 56% of students participating in an Apps for Good programme were female.

“A young person’s location, background, or gender should never be a barrier to their future success. Apps for Good empowers young people to change their world through technology, and we have a strong track record of engaging girls in computing. We are excited to be a part of this important work to create, test, and scale solutions to inspire more girls to pursue technology in education. We look forward to helping to build a more diverse talent pool of future tech creators.” Sophie Ball & Natalie Moore, Co-Managing Directors, Apps for Good

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has a strong track record for inclusion through our informal learning programmes: out of the 375,000 children who attended a Code Club or a CoderDojo in 2018, 140,000 (37%) were girls. This disparity between the gender balance in informal learning and the imbalance in formal learning is one of the things our new research project will be investigating.

The challenge of encouraging more girls to take up computing has long been a concern, and overcoming it will be critical to ensuring that the nation’s workforce is suitably skilled to work in an increasingly digital world. I’m therefore very proud to be working with this group of excellent organisations on this important research project (and on such a scale!). Together, we have the opportunity to rigorously trial a range of evidence-informed initiatives to improve the gender balance in computing in primary and secondary schools.

11 Comments

We’re on a stamp!

The Royal Mail is issuing a series of six stamps celebrating 50 years of British Engineering this week (available from 2 May). We’re absolutely made up to be one of the engineering projects chosen: we’re in some exalted company.

This series is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award, which Raspberry Pi won in 2017. (I had had a baby what felt like about five minutes before the photos from the MacRobert Award presentation ceremony were taken, so please don’t judge.) The Raspberry Pi stamp sits alongside stamps featuring the Falkirk Wheel, catalytic converters, Crossrail, CT scanners, and synthetic bone grafts. We don’t envy the people having to make the choices about what to put on stamps like this: how do you sift through fifty years of great engineering in a country like Great Britain that produces so much to admire? We’re very proud to have been included — and we’re buying a huge stack of them to use on all our post for the foreseeable future.

You can buy your own presentation pack at the Royal Mail website (or at Post Offices) from Wednesday 2 May; or you can pre-order now. We’re a little sad that British stamps now come with a sticky back, so we won’t be able to imagine all of you gently licking the back of a Raspberry Pi, but otherwise we’re absolutely made up.

21 Comments

Interactive fiction with Python | Hello World issue 8

Nicholas Provenzano explains how he introduced Python to students in his literature class, bridging computer science and literacy.

Literature classes seem like the last place you would find students coding, but interactive fiction has been around for decades. Students love to play computer games, and the very best games have amazing stories. This project will allow students to create their own piece of fiction and then use Python to turn it into a text-based computer game. Students will have a chance to create their own hero and monsters, treasures and traps and so much more while being introduced to Python. Students that love to write, and students that love to code, will love this lesson.

Hello World issue 8

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about to ways to bring computer science into the literature classroom. I set out exploring the Raspberry Pi projects page, where I saw a project that allowed the user to create their own text-based computer game using Python. I thought this would be a great way to engage students in reading, writing, and programming.

Students create their own piece of fiction and then use their stories to create an amazing text-based computer game based on the role-playing game (RPG) tutorial from Raspberry Pi: helloworld.cc/rpg. From the first day working on this project, my students fell in love with the writing and the coding. They couldn’t wait to create their game and share them with their friends.

The project is best introduced with a focus on creative writing, where students should create an outline for their own adventure story. With that in hand, introduce the students to the Raspberry Pi RPG tutorial. It is much easier for students to create their game if they draw out the rooms on paper to help them visualise the game they’re creating. The more time they are given to create their game, the more complex it can become. Students will be able to fully explore the code while creating a fun game they can share with others.

Hello World issue 8

This project is the perfect way to bring coding to a literature class. Students that love to write will be introduced to text-based programming, while students that love to code will have an opportunity to explore fiction through their own writing.

My students were excited to spend their time creating a complex story, and an even more complex game to challenge their friends and their teacher. Students who struggled with the code were helped by other students who’d already moved ahead. We spent a week on this project, but you could spend longer, depending on the breadth of the stories and games. Watching students use their critical thinking skills to plan out a maze for their players was great to see.

The best part was watching students who do not normally engage in reading and writing lessons become leaders as they embraced the coding and were excited to turn their story into a game and share it with everyone. This project will become a mainstay in my teaching for years to come.

Take this to your club or classroom

For the complete lesson plan of the above project, download Hello World issue 8 for free and turn to pages 80–81.

Hello World issue 8

Get Hello World issue 8 for free

Hello World is available to download for free in PDF format anywhere in the world. Subscribe to Hello World today to receive the latest issues into your inbox as soon as they’re released.

Hello World issue 8

If you are a UK-based educator, you can also subscribe for free print copies of Hello World, which will be delivered to your door at no extra cost.

And, lastly, if you’d like to purchase Hello World magazine, you can buy the latest issue via the Raspberry Pi Press website.

4 Comments

Intelli-T Raspberry Pi sensor alarm | The MagPi issue 81

Never knowingly run out of tea-bags again with this ingenious system, using a Raspberry Pi and Arduino to create a weight sensor and alarm.

The Intelli-T Raspberry Pi sensor alarm

Faced with the, almost unthinkable, problem of no tea-bags in the house, Robin Mitchell was inspired to contrive an invention that would eliminate the possibility of that scenario ever happening again, and the Intelli-T Raspberry Pi Sensor Alarm was born. As he explains, “One of the biggest problems that faces many British homes, as well as my own, is having a stable supply of tea… an issue with knowing how many tea-bags are available in the house. Hence, an intelligent tea-bag container was needed!”

Simplici-tea

Simple in its design, the project consists of only a few elements, as Robin tells us: “The first element is the weight sensor itself, which weighs the tea-bag container. This weight sensor is connected to a standard HX711 ADC, which is then read by an Arduino. The Arduino then sends the weight data to the Raspberry Pi, which can keep track of how many bags there are, and play interesting facts about tea when a tea-bag is removed.”

The Intelli-T Raspberry Pi sensor alarm

Clever, but as with many inventions, not entirely straightforward to construct, with the weight sensor providing the main issue, as Robin elaborates: “The problem with weight sensors is that they require plenty of fine-tuning and can be very noisy. While this is not a problem for heavier items, trying to accurately weigh tea-bags is a nightmare. On reflection, it would have been better to use a much smaller weight sensor, so that the weight of the individual tea-bags is larger with respect to the minimum weight that the sensor can register (this would improve the accuracy).”

Brewing ideas

Undeterred, Robin successfully completed his tea-bag detection system, and feels that this kind of weight-sensing system could easily be used in other projects. “One area that could benefit from a similar system would be industrial systems that need to count parts such as resistors, transistors, capacitors, and even potentiometers. Of course, part counting can also be useful for the everyday hobbyist who wants to keep check of their component stock, and someone like myself who stocks many thousands of parts needs to keep an accurate check on inventory regularly (as I own a small electronics business).”

There certainly appears to be some scope here for future projects but, as for tea-bag detection, Robin thinks he has taken that particular piece of work as far as he can. “The project was great fun, but since I no longer drink bagged tea (lemon tea rules!), I don’t have a use for it any more.”

Not that Robin is short of ideas for other projects. “Each day of my life is all about creating projects around many platforms, with the Raspberry Pi included. Only recently, I designed a simple IoT monitoring station for an IoT sensor that can be affixed to a drill, and the vibration data streamed to the Raspberry Pi via a local network. All I can say is that the Raspberry Pi is a fantastic platform for prototyping and project building!”

The MagPi magazine issue 81

This article is from the latest issue of The MagPi magazine, which is out today and can be purchased online, at the Raspberry Pi Store, or from many independent bookshops, such as WHSmith and Barnes & Noble.

The MagPi magazine issue 81

You can also download issue 81 for free from The MagPi website, where you’ll also find information on subscription options, and the complete MagPi catalogue, including Essentials guides and books, all available to download for free.

the MagPi subscription

1 Comment

Create wearable tech with Sophy Wong and our new book | HackSpace magazine issue 18

Forget Apple Watch and Fitbit — if we’re going to wear something electronic, we want to make it ourselves!

Wearable Tech Projects, from the makers of HackSpace magazine, is a 164-page book packed with projects for the fashionable electronics enthusiast, with more than 30 projects which will blink, flash, and spark joy in your life.

Sophy Wong HackSpace Wearable Tech Projects book

Make a wearable game controller

Fans of Sophy Wong will already know about the amazing wearable tech that she develops. We wanted to make sure that more people discovered her work and the incredible world of wearable technology. You’ll start simple with sewable circuits and LEDs, and work all the way up to building your own wearable controller (complete with feathers) for an interactive, fully immersive game of Flappy Bird.

Sophy Wong HackSpace Wearable Tech Projects book

Pick up the tricks of the trade

Along the way, you’ll embed NFC data in a pair of cufflinks, laser cut jewellery, 3D print LED diffusers onto fabric for a cyberpunk leather jacket, and lots more.

 

Sophy Wong HackSpace Wearable Tech Projects book

Learn new techniques from Sophy Wong

You’ll discover new techniques for working with fabric, find out about the best microcontrollers for your projects, and learn the basics of CircuitPython, the language developed at Adafruit for physical computing. There’s no ‘Hello, World!’ or computer theory here; this is all about practical results and making unique, fascinating things to wear.

Get your copy today

Wearable Tech Projects is available to buy online for £10 with free delivery. You can also get it from WHSmith and all the usual high street retail suspects.

And that’s not all. There is also a new issue of HackSpace magazine out now, with an awesome special feature on space! You can find your copy at the same retailers as above. You can also download both Issue 18 and the Wearables book for free from the HackSpace website.

 

No Comments

An Introduction to C & GUI Programming – the new book from Raspberry Pi Press

The latest book from Raspberry Pi Press, An Introduction to C & GUI Programming, is now available. Author Simon Long explains how it came to be written…

An Introduction to C and GUI programming by Simon Long

Learning C

I remember my first day in a ‘proper’ job very well. I’d just left university, and was delighted to have been taken on by a world-renowned consultancy firm as a software engineer. I was told that most of my work would be in C, which I had never used, so the first order of business was to learn it.

My manager handed me a copy of Kernighan & Ritchie’s The C Programming Language, pointed to a terminal in the corner, said ‘That’s got a compiler. Off you go!’, and left me to it. So, I started reading the book, which is affectionately known to most software engineers as ‘K&R‘.

I didn’t get very far. K&R is basically the specification of the C language. Dennis Ritchie, the eponymous ‘R’, invented C, and while the book he helped write is an excellent reference guide, it is not a great introduction for a beginner. Like most people who know their subject inside out, the authors tend to assume that you know more than you do, so reading the book when you don’t know anything about the language at all is a little frustrating. I do know people who have learned C from K&R, and they have my undying respect!

I ended up learning C on the job as I went along; I looked at other people’s code, hacked stuff together, worked out why things didn’t work, asked for help from my colleagues, made a lot of mistakes, and gradually got the hang of it. I found only one book that was helpful for a beginner: it was called C For Yourself, and was actually one of the manuals for the long-extinct Microsoft QuickC compiler. That book is now impossible to find, so I’ve always had to tell people that the best book for learning C as a beginner is ‘C For Yourself, but you won’t be able to find a copy!’

Writing An Introduction to C & GUI Programming

When I embarked on this project, the editor of The MagPi and I were discussing possible series for the magazine, and we thought about creating a guide to writing GUI applications in C — that’s what I do in my day job at Raspberry Pi, so it seemed a logical place to start. We realised that the reader would need to know C to benefit from the series, and they wouldn’t be able to find a copy of C For Yourself. We decided that I ought to solve that problem first, so I wrote the original beginners’ guide to C series for The MagPi.

(At this point, I should stress that the series is aimed at absolute beginners. I freely admit that I have simplified parts of the language so that the reader does not have to absorb as much in one go. So yes, I do know about returning a success/fail code from a program, but beginners really don’t need to learn about that in the first chapter — especially when many will never need to write a program which does it. That’s why it isn’t explained until Chapter 9.)

An Introduction to C and GUI programming by Simon Long published by Raspberry Pi Press

So, the beginners’ guide to C came first, and I have now got round to writing the second part, which was what I’d planned to write all along. The section on GUIs describes how to write applications using the GTK toolkit, which is used for most of the Raspberry Pi Desktop and its associated applications. GTK is very powerful, and allows you to write rich graphical user interfaces with relatively few lines of code, but it’s not the most intuitive for beginners. (Much like C itself!) The book walks you through the basics of creating a window, putting widgets on it, and making the widgets do useful things, and gets you to the point where you know enough to be able to write an application like the ones I have written for the Raspberry Pi Desktop.

An Introduction to C and GUI programming by Simon Long published by Raspberry Pi Press

It then seemed logical to bring the two parts together in a single volume, so that someone with no experience of C has enough information to go from a standing start to writing useful desktop applications.

I hope that I’ve achieved that and if nothing else, I hope that I’ve written a book which is a bit more approachable for beginners than K&R!

Get An Introduction to C & GUI Programming today!

An Introduction to C & GUI Programming is available today from the Raspberry Pi Press online store, or as a free download here. You can also pick up a copy from the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge, or ask your local bookstore if they have it in stock or can order it in for you.

Alex interjects to state the obvious: Basically, what we’re saying here is that there’s no reason for you not to read Simon’s book. Oh, and it feels really nice too.

55 Comments

Build a SatNOGS ground station with a Raspberry Pi 3B+ | HackSpace magazine #18

The big feature on outer space in issue 18 of HackSpace magazine, available from today, shows you how to build your own satellite and launch it into orbit.

No, we’re not kidding, this is an actual thing you can do.

And to track the satellite you’ve launched, or another satellite you’re interested in, here’s how to build your own SatNOGS ground station with a Raspberry Pi 3B+.

Building a Raspberry Pi ground station

Once you’ve built and launched your small satellite, you’ll want to listen to all the glorious telemetry and data it‘s sending back as it hurtles around the Earth. Or perhaps you aspire to have a satellite up there, but in the meantime you want to listen to some other objects? What you need is a ground station, but a single ground station has one slight flaw. Most of the time a satellite will not be overhead of a single ground station; in fact, it may only pass over a ground station once every few days, massively reducing the amount of information or data we can receive. So we need a network of ground stations. The SatNOGS network solves this by creating a global network of stations that can work together to increase coverage.

SatNOGS is an open-source project that has numerous designs for satellite ground stations, but whichever design you pick, you can join the network that links them all via the web.

A station owner can use the website to browse for future passes of a satellite, and then click a button to schedule for their station to turn on, tune to frequency, and record the pass, sometimes even rotating the antenna on the station to track the satellite. Not only can a station owner schedule an observation on their own station, but they can schedule observations on any station on the global network.

As we can see from this map of data being collected of a recent SSTV broadcast from the ISS (sends single-frame images transmitted via audio from the ISS), the SatNOGS network has near-global coverage, rivalling most professional institutions in the world.

Simple setup

The simplest form of a SatNOGS station is one that doesn’t move or track and is made from a static antenna, a Raspberry Pi, and a cheap software-defined radio (SDR) dongle. The SDR dongle has become ubiquitous in maker circles as it is an affordable entry item into the world of receiving signals via SDR. Looking at our ingredients in the image below, let’s explore them a little more before we get started.

While a permanent station may do better connected by Ethernet cable, using the Raspberry Pi’s built-in wireless LAN functionality means we can run this simply with only a power cable. While many have used the cheapest Realtek SDR dongles with success, some people have found the slightly more refined versions can be more stable – a current recommendation is the RTL-SDR V3, which has a better casing for thermal dissipation, and slightly upgraded components. The RTL-SDR V3 is available here.

The classic antenna recommended for a static SatNOGS setup shown above is a ‘turnstile’ antenna; commercial models are available, such as the Wimo TA-1, but people have designed and built lots of different static antennas for different frequencies and with small budgets – check out the tutorial Make a Slim Jim antenna on page 112 (in HackSpace issue 18, links below).

In order to set up a ground station, one of the first tasks we need to do is set up an account on network.satnogs.org. Registering on the site then gives us a dashboard where we can begin to set up a station. Click to add a station — we then need to supply it with some basic details as per the image below: a name for the station, a location in latitude and longitude (Google is your friend here!), and the elevation of the station above sea-level.

You need to decide what frequency your station is going to cover; the most common ranges are UHF and VHF, which would require different antennas, but either range has a huge number of objects you can schedule to observe. Many people opt for VHF, as this includes the frequency range for a lot of the different transmissions from the ISS, so we are going to choose VHF as well. You also need to add a minimum elevation value — this is the minimum angle that a satellite must be in terms of height for your station to see it — if you aren’t sure, either ask for help on the forums, or leave it for now at the default 10 degrees.

Having filled in the boxes to create the station (leave the ‘this is in testing’ box ticked for now), you should now see a ground station entry has been made on your account, as above. You will see (even though it isn’t set up yet) a list populating underneath the entry with ‘Pass Predictions’, which are things you could schedule to observe once you are up and running. Before we leave the website, we need to make a note of the number assigned to the ground station, and also our own personal API key — which we can find in our dashboard by clicking the API key button. These two pieces of information are what will ultimately connect our ground station hardware to the website account.

The next task is to sort out the Raspberry Pi. You can find the current custom SatNOGS image here.

Flash this to your microSD card as you would for a regular Raspberry Pi setup — the free app Etcher, for example, is a simple tool that allows you to flash an image to a card.

Once done, boot the Raspberry Pi, and you can either SSH into the Pi, or connect a keyboard and monitor and interact with the setup that way. The first things we need to do are not SatNOGS-specific, but are the usual things we do when setting up a Raspberry Pi. We need to set up a different password by running the sudo raspi‐config command. Once you’ve set a password and expanded the file system, it’s also useful to set the time zone to UTC, as this is used throughout the SatNOGS network. If you want to run this test station wirelessly, then you need to configure your network connection at this point. If you are connecting via an Ethernet cable, then you don’t need to do anything else. Apply the changes and reboot (then see ‘Final setup’ box above in HackSpace issue 18, links below).

Now, if we go back to our dashboard on the SatNOGS website (perhaps wait a few minutes and click Refresh), we should see that the station is now online, as above. We should see an orange spot on the network map showing our proud station in testing. Being in testing means that only you can schedule observations on the station, but when you are ready, you can change settings to take it out of testing and then it is fully on the network.

On the hunt

Power down one last time and connect the RTL-SDR dongle and the antenna, then reboot — you are now ready to hunt satellites! Scheduling observations is as simple as selecting passes from the list and clicking Schedule. There may be drop-down choices for different transmitters to listen for on the same satellite, and other choices, but essentially you click Calculate to create the observation and then Schedule for the job to be created and sent to the queue for your station. There are hundreds of satellites to try to observe, so don’t worry if you don’t understand what any of them are — in the pass predictions list, if you click the name of a satellite you will get a pop-up with information about it. For a more detailed walkthrough of scheduling an observation on the SatNOGS network, check out this blog post.

After the time of the pass, return to the observation page and, hopefully, you should see some signals. Don’t worry if your first few observations aren’t successful: try at least a dozen observations before making any changes, as there are many possible reasons for a signal not getting picked up; indeed, the satellite may not even have been transmitting. If you have received a signal, you should ‘vet’ the observation as good; this is particularly important if you have scheduled on someone else’s station – etiquette says we should check and vet our own observations. Check out the Slim Jim antenna (see page 112 of HackSpace magazine issue 18, links below) for a link to a successful observation you can listen to.

Happy satellite hunting!

Finally, it’s a great idea to join the Libre Space Foundation community forum (or IRC), as it hosts the SatNOGS community channels, and there is a wealth of expertise and help available there from a very welcoming community. If you build a station, go and share your achievement on the forum — everyone will be pleased to see it.

Get HackSpace magazine issue 18 — out today

HackSpace magazine issue 18 is out today, and available online, or from many high-street retailers such as WHSmith and Sainsbury’s in the UK, and Barnes & Nobel in the US.

You can also download issue 18 for free, today as a PDF, so there really is no reason not to give HackSpace a spin.

1 Comment

Rousseau-inspired Raspberry Pi Zero LED piano visualiser

Unlock your inner Rousseau with this gorgeous Raspberry Pi Zero LED piano visualiser.

Piano LED Visualizer

Inspired by Rousseau videos I tried to build my own Piano Visualizer. It is made with Raspberry Pi and WS2812B LED strip. Screen and buttons: Waveshare LCD TFT 1,44” 128x128px.

Pianist Rousseau

Fans of the popular YouTube pianist Rousseau would be forgiven for thinking the thumbnail above is of one of his videos. It’s actually of a Raspberry Pi build by Aleksander Evening, who posted this project on Reddit last week as an homage to Rousseau, who is one of his favourite YouTubers.

Building an LED piano visualiser

After connecting the LED strip to the Raspberry Pi Zero W, and setting up the Pi as a Bluetooth MIDI host, Aleksander was almost good to go. There was just one thing standing in his way…

He wanted to use the Synthesia software for visualisations, and, unmodified, this software doesn’t support the MIDI files Aleksander planned to incorporate. Luckily, he found the workaround:

As of today Synthesia doesn’t support MIDI via Bluetooth, it should be added in next update. There is official workaround: you have to replace dll file. You also have to enable light support in Synthesia. In Visualizer settings you have to change “input” to RPI Bluetooth. After that when learning new song next-to-play keys will be illuminated in corresponding colors, blue for left hand and green for right hand.

Phew!

Homemade Rousseau

The final piece is a gorgeous mix of LEDs, sound, and animation — worthy of the project’s inspiration.

Find more information, including parts, links to the code, and build instructions, on Aleksander’s GitHub repo. And as always, if you build your own, or if you’ve created a Raspberry Pi project in honour of your favourite musician, artist, or YouTuber, we’d love to see it in the comments below.

And now, a little something from Rousseau:

Ludovico Einaudi – Nuvole Bianche

Sheet music: https://mnot.es/2N01Gqt Click the 🔔bell to join the notification squad! ♫ Listen on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2LdpqK7 ♫ MIDI: https://patreon.com/rousseau ♫ Facebook: http://bit.ly/rousseaufb ♫ Instagram: http://bit.ly/rousseauig ♫ Twitter: http://bit.ly/rousseautw ♫ Buy me a coffee: http://buymeacoff.ee/rousseau Hope you enjoy my performance of Nuvole Bianche by Ludovico Einaudi.

No Comments