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!

Build your own Death Star…sort of

Why it’s taken me seven months to type ‘Star Wars Raspberry Pi’ into Google is beyond me. But this morning, as I sat on a bus in traffic with BB8 in my bag and memories of watching Rogue One last night, the thought finally came to me.

Cut to a few moments later, as I eagerly scrolled through the Interactive Persistence of Vision Globe website from the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering team at the University of Leeds.

POV Globe Death Star

The project was originally launched a few years back by a MEng student group consisting of Thomas Carpenter, Oliver Peel, Adam Clarkson, and Laurence Bird, with supervision from Craig Evans. It uses a ring of RGB LEDs, rotating on an axis at 300rpm, to display an image.

POV Globe

A Raspberry Pi sits within the rotating build, offering HDMI connectivity to allow images to be sent to the LEDs via a decoder.

Images can be sent to the globe from any smart device, allowing you to display a map with your own chosen coordinates, visual temperature readings, and much more. This makes the globe useful for marketing and education, as well as good ol’ fashioned fun and total planet destruction.

A Spherical Persistence of Vision Display – 3rd year project

Warning – contains flashing images* Students from the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering create a Spherical Persistence of Vision Display in their 3rd year group project.

The team go into a lot more detail on their website, explaining the components used and how the globe was built. If you’re interested in the ins and outs, head to their site.

Given it’s been a few years since the launch of the globe, we’d love to hear what its builders are up to now. If you know, leave an update in the comments below.

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I Like To Make Stuff – Raspberry Pi Builds

If you follow us on Facebook or Google+, you’ll probably be aware of my maker crush on Bob Clagett. And if you work in the Pi Towers office, you’ll have noticed the I Like To Make Stuff merchandise that covers my desk.

Subscribers to the I Like To Make Stuff channel will be aware of Bob’s easy-to-follow style of building. I first discovered him when he was building a hidden room behind a bookcase and was instantly hooked…because who wouldn’t want a hidden room behind a bookcase?

More recently, Bob has started to incorporate tech into his builds. Last February, Bob built a gorgeous arcade cabinet for his home, complete with RetroPie innards and a decal of his family as superheroes.

He then moved on to a Pi-powered display sign for his workspace, a micro version of his arcade cabinet running Kodi, and a bar-top gaming cabinet for those with less space.

For anyone wanting to make a RetroPie build, it’s worth watching this playlist. And for anyone wanting a clear tutorial for using Raspberry Pi for signage, you can’t go wrong by checking out his walkthrough.

While we’re talking about subscribing and the internet, make sure to follow our accounts at YouTubeFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Snapchat as we continue to share great projects such as this from makers across the globe. And if you find any that you like the look of, share it with us using the #RaspberryPi hashtag. We get LOADS of mentions daily, so feel free to increase my workload!

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CD Tea

Caffeination is an important cornerstone of Raspberry Pi development. Gordon in particular drinks so much tea in any given day that we are concerned for the sustainability of Sri Lanka’s plantations, not to mention the colour of his insides. (Conversation at 10.30 this morning: “Gordon, how many cups of tea would you estimate you drink in a day?” “Em…fifteen? I’ve already had five this morning, I drink it through the day and I usually have at least one in bed at night.”)

In an act of one-upmanship, Carrie Anne, James and the other people who write our educational resources have been showing us the state of their mugs this morning too.

Because we love you and want to make you happy, we are not illustrating this post with a picture of Gordon’s insides.

We like to make sure that Gordon, Carrie and the rest of the office tea-drinkers are doing as much work as possible, and are undistracted by the need to steep yet another bag. So we were delighted to happen upon this project from Andrey Chilikin. This is what happens when you are innovative enough to turn one of those antique computer-cup-holders on its end and add that standby of makers everywhere, the trusty lollipop stick. Hook it up to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins, and Bob’s your uncle.

tea bag

If you’d like to automate your own tea habit with old hardware, you’ll find all the code you need and a wiring schematic at Andrey’s GitHub. Thanks Andrey!

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Fly AI

Happy 2017, everybody! We’re back in the office (for values of “we” equal to me and a cup of coffee – the rest of your friendly Comms team is still on vacation). I hope your New Year’s resolutions are still unbroken. Mine involves that coffee, which doesn’t have any sugar in it and is making January feel much bleaker than necessary. I’ll be fascinated to see how long I can keep it up.

On to the Pi stuff.

I spotted this magnificently creepy art installation from David Bowen just before Christmas, and have been looking forward to showing it to you, because I like to know I’m not the only person having specific nightmares. In this project, a Raspberry Pi AI is mothering a colony of flies: whenever if spots and correctly identifies a fly, it releases a dose of nutrients and water.

flyAI

flyAI creates a situation where the fate of a colony of living houseflies is determined by the accuracy of artificial intelligence software. The installation uses the TensorFlow machine learning image recognition library to classify images of live houseflies. As the flies fly and land in front of a camera, their image is captured.

David says: “The system is setup to run indefinitely with an indeterminate outcome.”

Which means there’s potential for an awful lot of tiny corpses.

It all sounds simple enough, but there’s something about the build – the choice of AI voice, the achingly slow process of enunciating everything it believes it might have seen before it feeds its wards…the fact that the horrible space-helmet-bubble thing is full of flies – that makes for the most unsettling project we’ve seen in a long time.

Fly AI

If you are inspired by this arthropod chamber of horrors, you can read about more of David’s projects on his blog. You’ll be delighted to learn than this is not the only one employing house-fly labourers. More power to all six of your elbows, David.

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So you got a Raspberry Pi for Christmas! Now what?

Note: The elves at Pi Towers are all taking next week off to spend some time with their families, and this blog will be quiet for the week. We’ll be back at the start of January. Happy holidays!

Happy 25th of December, everybody!

If you’re one of the many who woke up this morning to find some Raspberry Pi goodies under your tree, congratulations.

Christmas

Now you’ve unpacked the Pi, confirmed it to indeed be roughly the size of a credit card, and confused a less tech-savvy loved one by telling them “This is a computer!”, you may be wondering to do with it next…and that’s where we come in.

The Raspberry Pi can be used to create no end of wonderful things, including robots, musical instruments, virtual pets, stop motion cameras, and much more.

It will also help you to learn programming, allow you to play games, offer the chance to explore space, and automate your home.

Not quite like this…

So many awesome things.

But how do you do any of them!? Well…

1. OS me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.

Awful pun. I’m sorry.

You’ll need to make sure you have the latest Raspbian operating system (OS) on your Pi. You may have been given an SD with Rasbian pre-installed but if not, head to our downloads page to get it.

2. Start me up

ALL THE POWER!

You’ll need to plug your Pi into a monitor (your TV will do), keyboard and mouse in order to get started. You’ll also need a good-quality power supply providing at least 2A.

We’ve some great instructions within our help pages to get you up and running. And if you’re still stuck, our forum has loads of information and is full of helpful people. Feel free to join and ask a question, and search previous topics for advice.

3. So how do I build a robot then?!

With tinsel and tape and bows and…

Excellent question. But if you’ve never tried to code before, you may want to start with something a little smaller…like Scratch or Sonic Pi, or a physical build such as the Parent Detector or a Burping Jelly Baby.

You may also want to check out some great project books such as Carrie Anne’s Adventures in Raspberry Pi or any of The MagPi Magazine Essentials Guides and Project Books.

You’ll find a lot more suggestions in our Christmas Shopping List.

4. More, more, more!

You’ll find more projects on our resources pages, along with some brilliant inspirational builds on our YouTube channel and blog. Or simply search for Raspberry Pi online. We’ve an amazing community of makers who share their code and builds for all to use, and now you’re one of us…WELCOME!

 

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Estefannie’s Smart Gingerbread House

Having recently discovered her through Instagram, we love the videos that have been coming through from Estefannie ‘Explains It All’ De la Garza.

As a “Software Engineer by day, Game Dev and YouTuber by night”, Estefannie is no stranger to digital making. And with her new YouTube channel, she’s started sharing the experience of physical making with the world.

Viewers can watch her as she learns how to solder, or builds a sensor-controller BB-8 pumpkin. And, just in time for Christmas, you can share the experience of building an automated gingerbread house.

The gingerbread house uses LEDs, servos, an Arduino and Raspberry Pi, all powered by a solar panel on the roof, to offer up an app-controlled light show, dancing gingerbread men and a working automatic door.

As far as automated baked goods go, this one definitely…takes the biscuit.

As with all great makers, Estefannie provides the code for her creation on her GitHub page, allowing everyone the chance to pimp up their own gingerbread houses this holiday season. So grab some tech, turn on the oven and lets get making baking making!

SMART GINGERBREAD HOUSE | KITCHEN HACKS

Hey World! I’ve always wanted a smart house, so I made a SMART GINGERBREAD HOUSE!!! Check out my version of an automated gingerbread house using an Arduino, Raspberry Pi, solar panel, servos, and LEDs. I hooked up all the lights and servos to an Arduino which is controlled by a website that is hosted in my Raspberry Pi.

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The MagPi 53 out now! Free Debian + PIXEL DVD

The MagPi 53 is out now. This month’s community magazine comes with a free Debian + PIXEL DVD.

With the DVD, you can run the Debian + PIXEL desktop on a PC or Mac.

The MagPi 53 Free DVD

Click here to download The MagPi 53.

The MagPi Translated Edition 2

Launching alongside this month’s The MagPi are more international titles. The second edition of our bite-sized version of The MagPi, translated into four languages, is now available.

The MagPi Translated Edition 2 contains the best projects, reviews, and tutorials from The MagPi. These are translated into Italian, French, Spanish, and Hebrew.

Click here to download The MagPi Translated Edition 2.

Inside The MagPi 53: The best projects and guides

The MagPi 53 Tutorial

Here are some of the incredible projects you will find in this month’s The MagPi:

  • Google DeepDream: how to create surreal works of art with a Raspberry Pi and Google’s AI software
  • Master remote access: use a Raspberry Pi and SSH to connect remotely via the command line
  • Make a GPIO Music Box: Program push buttons to make different sounds
  • Create a horse race game: Get yourselves to the derby with Pi Bakery
  • Use BOINC to donate your Raspberry Pi’s resources to science

Inside The MagPi 53: Debian + PIXEL DVD

The MagPi 53 Beginner's Guide to Coding

There’s a huge amount in this month’s magazine. Here are just some of the features in this issue:

  • Beginner’s guide to programming: learn to code with our complete starter guide
  • Use the Debian + PIXEL DVD: try out our new OS on your computer with your free DVD
  • Create a bootable flash drive that can boot a Mac or PC into the PIXEL desktop

There’s also some amazing news this month: the Raspberry Pi has now sold 11 million units, and Raspberry Pi co-founder Eben Upton has been awarded a CBE! We have exclusive interviews with Eben about his CBE and the launch of Debian + PIXEL.

The MagPI 53 News

The best community projects

We also cover some of the most fantastic community projects ever built:

  • Pegasus and the North American Eagle. Inside the land-speed challenge car, with a Raspberry Pi in the driver’s cockpit
  • QBEE social media dress. This wearable tech posts automatically to social media
  • Self-playing pipe organ. This giant musical instrument is played by the Raspberry Pi
  • Water tank level monitor. This PIoT challenge winning project automates water collection in rural America

The MagPi 53 Project Focus

It’s one of the most feature-packed editions of The MagPi we’ve ever made. Don’t miss out on the free DVD that can bring an old computer back to life as a coding powerhouse. It really is something special.

You can grab The MagPi 53 in stores today: it’s in WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda in the UK, and it will be in Micro Center and selected Barnes & Noble stores when it comes to the US. You can also buy the print edition online from our store, and it’s available digitally on our Android and iOS app.

Get a free Pi Zero

Want to make sure you never miss an issue? Subscribe today and get a Pi Zero bundle featuring the new, camera-enabled Pi Zero, and a cable bundle that includes the camera adapter.

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PIXEL for PC and Mac

Updates

1.If you find that the taskbar does not appear when the x86 image is booted, please see here for a workaround.

2.If you find the image doesn’t boot on a Mac, you can try the fix here

Our vision in establishing the Raspberry Pi Foundation was that everyone should be able to afford their own programmable general-purpose computer. The intention has always been that the Raspberry Pi should be a full-featured desktop computer at a $35 price point. In support of this, and in parallel with our hardware development efforts, we’ve made substantial investments in our software stack. These culminated in the launch of PIXEL in September 2016.

PIXEL represents our best guess as to what the majority of users are looking for in a desktop environment: a clean, modern user interface; a curated suite of productivity software and programming tools, both free and proprietary; and the Chromium web browser with useful plugins, including Adobe Flash, preinstalled. And all of this is built on top of Debian, providing instant access to thousands of free applications.

Put simply, it’s the GNU/Linux we would want to use.

The PIXEL desktop on Raspberry Pi

Back in the summer, we asked ourselves one simple question: if we like PIXEL so much, why ask people to buy Raspberry Pi hardware in order to run it? There is a massive installed base of PC and Mac hardware out there, which can run x86 Debian just fine. Could we do something for the owners of those machines?

So, after three months of hard work from Simon and Serge, we have a Christmas treat for you: an experimental version of Debian+PIXEL for x86 platforms. Simply download the image, burn it onto a DVD or flash it onto a USB stick, and boot straight into the familiar PIXEL desktop environment on your PC or Mac. Or go out and buy this month’s issue of The MagPi magazine, in stores tomorrow, which has this rather stylish bootable DVD on the cover.

Our first ever covermount

You’ll find all the applications you’re used to, with the exception of Minecraft and Wolfram Mathematica (we don’t have a licence to put those on any machine that’s not a Raspberry Pi). Because we’re using the venerable i386 architecture variant it should run even on vintage machines like my ThinkPad X40, provided they have at least 512MB of RAM.

The finest laptop ever made, made finer

Why do we think this is worth doing? Two reasons:

  • A school can now run PIXEL on its existing installed base of PCs, just as a student can run PIXEL on her Raspberry Pi at home. She can move back and forth between her computing class or after-school club and home, using exactly the same productivity software and programming tools, in exactly the same desktop environment. There is no learning curve, and no need to tweak her schoolwork to run on two subtly different operating systems.
  • And bringing PIXEL to the PC and Mac keeps us honest. We don’t just want to create the best desktop environment for the Raspberry Pi: we want to create the best desktop environment, period. We know we’re not there yet, but by running PIXEL alongside Windows, Mac OS, and the established desktop GNU/Linux distros, we can more easily see where our weak points are, and work to fix them.

Remember that this is a prototype rather then a final release version. Due to the wide variety of PC and Mac hardware out there, there are likely to be minor issues on some hardware configurations. If we decide that this is something we want to commit to in the long run, we will do our best to address these as they come up. You can help us here – please let us know how you get on in the comments below!

Instructions

Download the image, and either burn it to a DVD or write it to a USB stick. For the latter, we recommend Etcher.

Etcher from resin.io

Insert the DVD or USB stick into your PC or Mac, and turn it on. On a PC, you will generally need to enable booting from optical drive or USB stick in the BIOS, and you will have to ensure that the optical drive or USB stick is ahead of all other drives in the boot order. On a Mac, you’ll need to hold down C during boot*.

If you’ve done that correctly, you will be greeted by a boot screen.

Boot screen

Here you can press escape to access the boot menu, or do nothing to boot through to the desktop.

Spot the difference: the PIXEL desktop on a PC

Please note that this initial experimental version is only available as a live image to boot from USB or DVD. In future releases, we may create an installer so it can be permanently installed on your computer’s hard drive, but for now this is can only be temporarily booted for trial purposes.

* We are aware of an issue on some modern Macs (including, annoyingly, mine – but not Liz’s), where the machine fails to identify the image as bootable. We’ll release an updated image once we’ve got to the bottom of the issue.

Persistence

If you are running from DVD, any files you create, or modifications you make to the system, will of course be lost when you power off the machine. If you are running from a USB stick, the system will by default use any spare space on the device to create a persistence partition, which allows files to persist between sessions. The boot menu provides options to run with or without persistence, or to erase any persistence partition that has been created, allowing you to roll back to a clean install at any time.

Boot menu

Disclaimer

One of the great benefits of the Raspberry Pi is that it is a low-consequence environment for messing about: if you trash your SD card you can just flash another one. This is not always true of your PC or Mac. Consider backing up your system before trying this image.

Raspberry Pi can accept no liability for any loss of data or damage to computer systems from using the image.

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The Crackerjoke-a-tron

In the UK, plus a few other countries here and there, no Christmas table is complete without the traditional Christmas cracker next to every plate.

The Christmas cracker is a cardboard tube, tied shut at both ends. When two people pull it apart, an inner ‘snapper’ gives off a bang while the cracker’s contents fall into your mashed potatoes and gravy. There’s usually a paper hat that tears the moment you try to fit it on your head (or falls away with the after-dinner meat sweats), a gift that tends to be something like a magic trick, a miniature sewing kit or a golf tee, along with a joke, like this one:

What’s orange and sounds like a parrot?

A carrot.

Cracker jokes are notorious for being awful.

Because of this, I have created the Crackerjoke-a-tron. It’s the ultimate joke response unit that allows you to pronounce judgement upon the jokes at this year’s Christmas table.

Crackerjoke-a-tron

Pronounce judgement upon the jokes at this year’s Christmas table. Full information, including build ingredients and code, can be found at the Raspberry Pi blog:

To make your own Crackerjoke-a-tron, you’ll need:

  • a Raspberry Pi (any model will work)
  • 2 x tactile push buttons
  • a speaker with a standard 3.5 mm jack

If you don’t fancy soldering, you’ll also need:

  • a breadboard
  • 2 x male-to-male jumper leads
  • 5 x female-to-male jumper leads

To add lights, you’ll need:

  • a red LED
  • a green LED
  • 2 x 330 ohm resistors

You can download the .wav files you will need directly to your Pi.

Create a new folder on your Pi called ‘crackerjoke’ by entering the following into a terminal window:

mkdir crackerjoke

You can then enter this folder using this command:

cd crackerjoke

To download the .wav files to your Pi, use this:

wget http://rpf.io/goodjoke -O goodjoke.wav

And then this:

wget http://rpf.io/badjoke -O badjoke.wav

To make sure the files play, try typing the following (make sure to plug in your speaker or some headphones):

aplay goodjoke.wav

If this works, you’re ready to get your code written and your buttons and lights set up.

First, we’ll put the components in place. Here’s a picture of what to expect:

Cracker-joke-a-tron

The GPIO pins we are using are as follows:

  • Good joke button = pin 21
  • Bad joke button = pin 24
  • Red LED = pin 8
  • Green LED = pin 7

If you have a breadboard, ground everything as standard. If you don’t, make sure you ground all your LEDs and GPIO pins.

Now it’s time for the code. Open Python 3, create a new file within the crackerjoke folder called ‘crackerjoke.py’ and type the following:

import pygame.mixer
from pygame.mixer import Sound
from gpiozero import Button, LED
from signal import pause

pygame.mixer.init()

good = Sound("/home/pi/crackerjoke/goodjoke.wav")
bad = Sound("/home/pi/crackerjoke/badjoke.wav")

good_button = Button(21)
bad_button = Button(24)

red = LED(8, initial_value=True)
green = LED(7, initial_value=True)

good_button.when_pressed = good.play
bad_button.when_pressed = bad.play

pause()

Save your code, press F5, and you should be good to go.

If you’d like the code to run on reboot, allowing you to detach yourself from the monitor, keyboard, and mouse, open a terminal window and type:

nano ~/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart

At the bottom of the file, add:

@python /home/pi/crackerjoke/crackerjoke.py

Save and reboot.

If you make the Crackerjoke-a-tron, don’t forget to share a picture or a video with us via social media, using the hashtag #BerryXmas.

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Raspberry Pi Big Birthday Weekend 2017

The Raspberry Pi Foundation and Code Club will soon be five years old, and we want you to join us at the beginning of March to help us celebrate. Tickets are on sale now!

Birthday Weekend GIF

This time we’re shaking things up a bit, with a new venue and a new format for the weekend. We’re still building on the huge successes of previous years’ parties, thanks to the invaluable support of our community members.

The Junction

The celebration will be held at Cambridge Junction (a five-minute walk from Cambridge train station), on Saturday 4 March from 10:30am to 6:30pm, and on Sunday 5 March from 10:00am to 5:30pm. It will feature talks and workshops for which you can sign up, as well as drop-in sessions that allow you to get hands-on without the need to register, so there’s something for everyone. There will even be cupcakes and free goody bags for all partygoers! Tickets cost just £5 for over-16s, and under-16s go free.

The full exciting schedule for both days will go live in the new year, but in the meantime check out our events page for more details, including a form you can fill in if you’d like to be involved by running a workshop or talk, by volunteering as a marshal, or by helping out in other ways. We look forward to seeing you there!

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