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!

Adding the Pi to Picasso with wireless digital graffiti

It looks like the Nintendo Wii Remote (Wiimote) has become a staple in many maker toolkits! Case in point: with the help of a Raspberry Pi and the cwiid Python library, David Pride turned the popular piece of tech into a giant digital graffiti spraycan.

Raspberry Pi-powered Nintento Wiimote digital art

Using the Wiimote with a Raspberry Pi

While it’s no longer being updated and supported, the cwiid library is still a handy resource for creators who want to integrate the Wiimote with their Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi-powered Nintento Wiimote digital art

Over the years, makers have used the Wiimote to control robots, musical instruments, and skateboards; the accessibility of the library plus the low cost and availability of the remote make using this tool a piece of cake…or pie, in this instance.

Digital graffiti

Using aWiimote, a Wii Sensor Bar, and a large display, David Pride hacked his way to digital artistry wonderment and enabled attendees of the Open University Knowledge Makers event to try their hand at wireless drawing. It’s kinda awesome.

OK, it’s all kinds of awesome. We really like it.

Digital graffiti ingredients

To construct David’s digital graffiti setup, you’ll need:

  • A Raspberry Pi
  • A Nintendo Wii Remote and a Wii Sensor Bar
  • A power supply and DC/DC power converter
  • A large display, e.g. a TV or projector screen
  • A 30mm × 30mm mirror and this 3D-printed holder

Putting it all together

David provides the step-by-step instructions for setting up the Wiimote and Raspberry Pi on his website, including a link to the GitHub repository with the complete project code. The gist of the build process is as follows:

Raspberry Pi-powered Nintento Wiimote digital art

After installing the cwiid library on the Raspberry Pi, David connected the Pi to the Wiimote via Bluetooth. And after some digging into the onboard libraries of the remote itself, he was able to access the infrared technology that lets the remote talk to the Sensor Bar.

Raspberry Pi-powered Nintento Wiimote digital art

The 3D-printed holder with which David augmented the Wiimote lets the user hold the remote upright like a spray can, while the integrated mirror reflects the IR rays so the Sensor Bar can detect them.

Raspberry Pi-powered Nintento Wiimote digital art

The Sensor Bar perceives the movement of the Wiimote, and this data is used to turn the user’s physical actions into works of art on screen. Neat!

If you’ve used the Nintendo Wiimote for your Raspberry Pi projects, let us know. And, speaking of the Wii, has anyone hacked their Balance Board with a Pi?

On a completely unrelated note…

How cool is this?!

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Firefighter monitoring system at Coolest Projects

Parisa Khashayar is a high school freshman with a knack for coding. In September of 2018, Parisa had the chance to present her tech creation at Coolest Projects USA, and she made joint first place in the Hardware category.

Since the sixth grade, Parisa has been teaching herself how to code; she has even taken classes during school holidays to further develop her learning. She’s also become quite the mechanic,  fixing appliances around the house and steadily growing her tool collection. Besides coding and electronics, she also loves biology and hopes to study biomedical engineering in the future.

Let’s hear from Parisa about her creation for Coolest Projects directly.

A couple of years ago, there was a large wildfire near our house, and we happened to drive by a fire truck where an injured fireman was being treated. Firefighters risk their lives every day to keep us safe, but who makes sure they themselves are safe? I did some research and found that, despite all advances in technology, there are no real high-tech products out there that monitor firefighters’ condition while they are on mission.

Prototyping my project

That is how my science project was born: I designed and prototyped a small board with multiple sensors that can be worn by firefighters. The device monitors conditions in the environment surrounding the fire, as well as the health of the firefighter; it relays this measurements to the command center via cellular technology.

I submitted my project to the Broadcom MASTERS competition, and it was selected as one of the top 300 in the nation. Through Broadcom MASTERS I found out about Coolest Projects USA, and I entered this showcase in Santa Ana as well.

“I think that Coolest Projects is one of the best ways to encourage kids to get into STEM.”

Coolest Projects is different

I have attended many science fairs, but Coolest Projects was different: it had a fun and friendly atmosphere, and kids of all different ages attended. After I arrived, I set up my project and then had a chance to walk around and talk to other kids to find out about their projects. It was very interesting and encouraging to see kids as young as 7 or 8 showing their work.

Showcasing creativity at Coolest Projects North America

Coolest Projects is a world-leading showcase that enables and inspires the next generation of digital creators and innovators to present the projects that they created at their local CoderDojo, Code Club and Raspberry Jam. This year we brought Coolest Projects to the Discovery Cube Orange County for a spectacular regional event in California.

We got the chance to rant about the endless problems we encountered with our projects, and to exchange notes about our solutions. It felt more like a friendly collaboration than a stressful competition. The judges were very kind and encouraging, which made the day even more pleasant.

“It felt more like a friendly collaboration than a stressful competition.” Parisa speaks to judges at Coolest Projects 2018

I received the first-place award in the Hardware category at Coolest Projects USA. I would like to attend Coolest Projects USA in 2019 with another project, or volunteer my time with them, because I think that Coolest Projects is one of the best ways to encourage kids to get into STEM!

“I want all the kids to know that coding is not scary — it is actually fun!”

Iterating my prototype

Since Coolest Projects, I have been working on my project to make my design smaller so everything can fit in a small, watch-size board. It is hard, and the progress is slow as I am very busy with high school work as well. Last summer I had an opportunity to introduce my design to the UCI Innovation program for UCI college students, and they let me to use their lab. I hope to be able to do the same this summer.

As for now, I am currently volunteering at my local CoderDojo to help teach younger kids how to code. I want all the kids to know that coding is not scary  — it is actually fun!

Coolest Projects USA is taking place on Saturday, March 23 2019, in Santa Ana, California, and project registration is now open.

We’re also hosting events in Manchester, UK, on 2 March, and in Dublin, Ireland, on 5 May! Learn more about Coolest Projects events near you by visiting the Coolest Projects website.

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Scratch 3, and upgrading our free resources

On 2 January, MIT released the latest version of their incredible visual programming language: Scratch 3!

Screenshot of Scratch 3 interface

Scratch 3 is here

We love Scratch — it’s the perfect starting point for young people who want to try coding, and we’re offering a huge variety of free Scratch project guides for all interests and coding abilities.

Scratch 3 introduces a brand-new look and feel. The most obvious change is that the stage is now on the right-hand side; there are new paint and sound editing tools; new types of code blocks; and the blocks are now larger and easier to read.

To help you and your young learners navigate the new Scratch 3 interface, we’ve created a free, printable Scratch 3 poster:

Scratch 3 interface with annotations

Perhaps the biggest news is that Scratch 3 also works on tablets, opening up coding to many children who don’t have access to a computer.

We’ve upgraded!

We want to make this a smooth transition for all of you who rely on our free project resources, whether that be at a Code Club, CoderDojo, Raspberry Jam, or at home, so we’ve been busy upgrading our resources to work with Scratch 3.

Scratch 3 versions of all projects in the Code Club Scratch Modules 1–3 and the CoderDojo Scratch Sushi Cards are already live!

Screenshot of Scratch 3 project on Raspberry Pi projects site

The upgrading process also was a chance for us to review our resources to make sure they are the best they can be; as part of this, we’ve introduced a number of improvements, such as simplified layouts, better hints, and better print-outs.

And we know that for many people, starting to use Scratch 3 is not simple, or not even possible yet, so we are committed to providing support for both Scratch 2 and 3 for the next 12 months.

We are really pleased with how our newly polished Scratch projects turned out, and we hope you are too!

What’s to come

Over the coming months, we’ll update the rest of our Scratch projects. Meanwhile, our amazing volunteer translators will begin the process of translating the upgraded projects.

Raspberry Pi projects site

Brand-new projects that take advantage of some of Scratch 3’s new features are also in the pipeline!

Scratch 3 on Pi

Another reason for ensuring we support both Scratch 2 and 3 is that, at the moment, there is no offline, installable version of Scratch 3 for Raspberry Pi. Rest assured that this is something we are working on!

The creation of Scratch 3 for Raspberry Pi will be a two-step process: first we’ll support MIT with their optimisation of Scratch 3 to make sure it delivers the best performance possible on a range of devices; once that work is complete, we’ll create an offline build of Scratch 3 for Raspberry Pi, including new extensions for the GPIO pins and the Sense HAT.

Make sure you’re following us on Twitter and Facebook, as we’ll be announcing more information on this in the coming months!

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Mince Pi – what’s under your tree?

Merry Christmas everybody! We’re taking a little time off to spend with our families; we’ll be back in 2019. This post is for those of you who have found a piece of Pi under the tree or nestling uncomfortably in the toe of a stocking, and who are wondering what to do with it. Raise a glass of egg nog and join us in fighting over who gets the crispy bits this lunchtime.

So you’re the proud owner of a brand-new Raspberry Pi. Now what?

Your new Raspberry Pi

Did you wake up this morning to find a new Raspberry Pi under the tree? Congratulations, and welcome to the Raspberry Pi community! You’re one of us now, and we’re happy to have you on board.

But what if you’ve never seen a Raspberry Pi before? What are you supposed to do with it? What’s all the fuss about, and why does your new computer look so naked?

Setting up your Raspberry Pi

Are you comfy? Good. Then let us begin.

Download our free operating system

First of all, you need to make sure you have an operating system on your micro SD card: we suggest Raspbian, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s official supported operating system. If your Pi is part of a starter kit, you might find that it comes with a micro SD card that already has Raspbian preinstalled. If not, you can download Raspbian for free from our website.

An easy way to get Raspbian onto your SD card is to use a free tool called Etcher. Watch The MagPi’s Lucy Hattersley show you what you need to do. You can also use NOOBS to install Raspbian on your SD card, and our Getting Started guide explains how to do that.

Plug it in and turn it on

Your new Raspberry Pi 3 comes with four USB ports and an HDMI port. These allow you to plug in a keyboard, a mouse, and a television or monitor. If you have a Raspberry Pi Zero, you may need adapters to connect your devices to its micro USB and micro HDMI ports. Both the Raspberry Pi 3 and the Raspberry Pi Zero W have onboard wireless LAN, so you can connect to your home network, and you can also plug an Ethernet cable into the Pi 3.

Make sure to plug the power cable in last. There’s no ‘on’ switch, so your Pi will turn on as soon as you connect the power. Raspberry Pi uses a micro USB power supply, so you can use a phone charger if you didn’t receive one as part of a kit.

Learn with our free projects

If you’ve never used a Raspberry Pi before, or you’re new to the world of coding, the best place to start is our projects site. It’s packed with free projects that will guide you through the basics of coding and digital making. You can create projects right on your screen using Scratch and Python, connect a speaker to make music with Sonic Pi, and upgrade your skills to physical making using items from around your house.

Here’s James to show you how to build a whoopee cushion using a Raspberry Pi, paper plates, tin foil and a sponge:

Raspberry Pi Whoopee cushion PRANK || HOW-TO || Raspberry Pi Foundation

Explore the world of Raspberry Pi physical computing with our free FutureLearn courses: http://rpf.io/futurelearn.

Diving deeper

You’ve plundered our projects, you’ve successfully rigged every chair in the house to make rude noises, and now you want to dive deeper into digital making. Good! While you’re digesting your Christmas dinner, take a moment to skim through the Raspberry Pi blog for inspiration. You’ll find projects from across our worldwide community, with everything from home automation projects and retrofit upgrades, to robots, gaming systems, and cameras.

Need a beginners’ guidebook? Look no further: here’s the official guide. It’s also available as a free download, like all our publications.

You’ll also find bucketloads of ideas in The MagPi magazine, the official monthly Raspberry Pi publication, available in both print and digital format. You can download every issue for free. If you subscribe, you’ll get a free Raspberry Pi 3A+ to add to your new collection. HackSpace magazine is another fantastic place to turn for Raspberry Pi projects, along with other maker projects and tutorials.

And, of course, simply typing “Raspberry Pi projects” into your preferred search engine will find thousands of ideas. Sites like Hackster, Hackaday, Instructables, Pimoroni, and Adafruit all have plenty of fab Raspberry Pi tutorials that they’ve devised themselves and that community members like you have created.

And finally

If you make something marvellous with your new Raspberry Pi – and we know you will – don’t forget to share it with us! Our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts are brimming with chatter, projects, and events. And our forums are the best place to visit if you ever have questions about your Raspberry Pi or if you need some help.

It’s good to get together with like-minded folks, so check out the growing Raspberry Jam movement. Raspberry Jams are community-run events where makers and enthusiasts can meet other makers, show off their projects, and join in with workshops and discussions. Find your nearest Jam here.

Have a great break, and welcome to the community. We’ll see you in 2019!

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Bike dashcam from RaspiTV

It’s that time of year again: Pi Towers is locking its doors as we all scoot off into the night to spend some time with our families. There will be a special post on Christmas Day for people who have been given a new Raspberry Pi and need some pointers for getting started. Normal service will resume when we’ve dealt with our New Year headaches: until then, have a wonderful Christmas holiday!

Our good friend Alex Eames has been live-blogging a new project over the last week or so, and has just wrapped up. (Seasonal pun. Not sorry.) He’s recently been bitten by the cycling bug.

I’ve ridden about 1100 miles in the last 6 months and have learned enough to bore you to death with talk of heart zones and various items of clothing you can buy to make winter rides more bearable.

Here is Darth Alex demonstrating fashion-forward winter 2018 cycling wear.

Moving swiftly on.

Alex has been working on a dashcam for his bike, mostly intended for use as a rear-view “mirror”, but also to work as an evidence-collecting camera in case of any accidents.

dashcam test

This is really one of the most interesting and enjoyable project write-ups we’ve come across in a while: working on this dashcam as a daily live blog means that Alex has been able to take us down all the rabbit holes he investigated, explain changes of direction and dead ends, and show us exactly how the design and engineering process came together. And this, being an Alex project, has great attention to detail; he made custom mounts for his bike to keep everything as unobtrusive as possible, so it looks great as well.

There’s a ton of detail on hardware (which went through several iterations before Alex settled on something he was happy with), software, implementation, unexpected hiccups, and more. And if you’re someone who would rather skip to the end, here’s Alex’s road test.

Raspberry Pi Bike Dashcam Rearview Mirror Road Test – no audio

First and second road tests of my Raspberry Pi Rearview mirror/Dashcam bike project as blogged here https://raspi.tv/2018/making-a-fairly-simple-bike-dashcam-live-project-blog

I really hope we’ll see more write-ups like this one in 2019. We don’t get to read as much about other project makers’ process as we’d like to; it’s really fascinating to get a glimpse into the way someone else thinks about and approaches a problem.

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From HackSpace mag issue 14: DIY Geiger counters

In HackSpace magazine issue 14, out today, Cameron Norris writes about how citizen scientists at Tokyo Hackerspace took on the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Safecast is an independent citizen science project that emerged in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster to provide accurate, unbiased, and credible data on radiation exposure in Japan.

On 11 March 2011, an undersea earthquake off the Pacific coast of Thoku, Japan, caused the second-worst nuclear accident in the history of nuclear power generation, releasing almost 30% more radiation than the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

The magnitude 9.0–9.1 earthquake resulted in a series of devastating tsunami waves that damaged the backup generator of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Without functioning cooling systems, the temperature of the plant’s many nuclear reactors steadily began to rise, eventually leading to a partial meltdown and several hydrogen gas explosions, launching nuclear fallout into the air and sea. Due to concerns over possible radiation exposure, the Japanese government established an 18-mile no-fly zone around the Fukushima plant, and approximately 232 square miles of land was evacuated.

However, citizens of Fukushima Prefecture living outside of the exclusion zone were faced with a serious problem: radiation exposure data wasn’t available to the public until almost two months after the meltdown occurred. Many residents felt they had been left to guess if dangerous levels of ionising radiation had contaminated their communities or not.

Alarmed by the situation, Dutch electrical engineer and computer scientist Pieter Franken, who was living in Tokyo with his family at the time, felt compelled to act. “After the massive wall of water, we had this invisible wall of radiation that was between myself and my family-in-law in the north of Japan, so that kind of triggered the start of Safecast,” says Pieter.

Pieter Franken, a Dutchman living in Japan, who helped start Safecast
Image credit: Joi Ito – CC BY 2.0

Pieter picked up an idea from Ray Ozzie, the former CTO of Microsoft, who suggested quickly gathering data by attaching Geiger counters – used for measuring radioactivity – to the outside of cars before driving around Fukushima. The only problem was that Geiger counters sold out almost globally in a matter of hours after the tsunami hit, making it even more difficult for Pieter and others on the ground to figure out exactly what was going on. The discussion between Pieter and his friends quickly changed from buying devices to instead building and distributing them to the people of Fukushima.

At Tokyo Hackerspace, Pieter – along with several others, including Joi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab, and Sean Bonner, an activist and journalist from Los Angeles – built a series of open-source tools for radiation mapping, to enable anyone to build their own pocket Geiger counter and easily share the data they collect. “Six days after having the idea, we had a working system. The next day we were off to Fukushima,” recalls Sean.

A bGeigie Nano removed from its Pelican hardshell
Safecast CC-BY-NC 4.0

A successful Kickstarter campaign raised $36,900 to provide the funding necessary to distribute hundreds of Geiger counters to the people of Japan, while training volunteers on how to use them. Today, Safecast has collected over 100 million data points and is home to the largest open dataset about environmental radiation in the world. All of the data is collected via the Safecast API and published free of charge in the public domain to an interactive map developed by Safecast and MIT Media Lab.

You can read the rest of this feature in HackSpace magazine issue 14, out today in Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy HackSpace mag directly from us — worldwide delivery is available. And if you’d like to own a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download a free PDF.

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MagPi 77: Make with code

Hey folks, Rob from The MagPi here! Before I head off on my Christmas holidays, I want to introduce you to The MagPi 77, where we teach you how to make with code.

Making made fun! See what we did there?

What do we mean by that? Well, using code to make things – whether that’s scripts, programs, or games on your Pi, or whether you’re controlling LEDs with code, or robots, or massive Rube Goldberg machines. In this feature, we show new Pi users how to get started making practical applications with Python, and hopefully you’ll be inspired to go on and do something special.

Can you make… with code?

Accessories make the Pi

Want to power up your Raspberry Pi with a few extras? We’ve put together a guide to the 20 best Raspberry Pi accessories, covering IoT, robots, media, power solutions, and even industrial add-ons. There’s a lot of stuff you can do with your Pi, and even more if you’ve got the right tool to help.

We have the best accessories for you

More, you say?

Still need more reasons to grab a copy? Well, we have a tutorial on how to make a smart door, we continue developing Pac-Man while checking out the Picade Console, and we have plenty of amazing project showcases like the SelfieBot!

Get The MagPi 77

You can get The MagPi 77 from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days for a print copy. You can also get the issue online: check it out on our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF.

Free Raspberry Pi 3A+ offer!

We’re still running our super special Raspberry Pi 3A+ subscription offer! If you subscribe to twelve months of The MagPi, you’ll get a Raspberry Pi 3A+ completely free while stocks last. Make sure to check out our other subs offers while you’re there, like three issues for £5, and our rolling monthly sub.

Get a 3A+ completely free while stocks last!

Right, happy holidays, folks! See you all in the New Year!

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From Wireframe issue 4: Recovering Destiny’s long-lost soundtrack

Missing for five years, Destiny’s soundtrack album, Music of the Spheres, resurfaced in 2017. Composer Marty O’Donnell reflects on what happened, in this excerpt from Wireframe issue 4, available tomorrow, 20 December.

When Bungie unveiled its space-opera shooter Destiny in February 2013, it marked the end of two years of near silence from the creators of the Halo franchise. Fans celebrated at the prospect of an entirely new game from such well known talent. Behind closed doors, however, Destiny was in trouble.

Though the game was almost complete by mid-2013, plans to launch that September were put on hold when concerns over Destiny’s story forced its narrative structure to be rebuilt from scratch. It would be more than 18 months before Destiny was released: a fun but strange shooter that bore difficult-to-pin-down traces of its troubled gestation. But one element of Destiny – that had been a huge part of its development – was nowhere to be seen. It was an ambitious original soundtrack written and recorded with an impressive but unexpected collaborator: Paul McCartney.

Spherical music

Audio director and composer Marty O’Donnell had been with Bungie since the late 1990s, and for him, Destiny represented an opportunity to develop something new: a musical prequel to the video game. This would become Music of the Spheres – an eight-part musical suite that took nearly two years to complete. This was no mere soundtrack, however. Born out of discussions between O’Donnell and Bungie COO Pete Parsons early in the game’s production, it was to play an integral role in Destiny’s marketing campaign.

“I wasn’t writing this just to be marketing fodder,” O’Donnell laughs. “I was writing it as a standalone listening experience that would then eventually become marketing fodder – but I didn’t want the other to happen first.”

Between 2011 and 2012, Bungie and O’Donnell devised plans for the album.

“Every few weeks or so, I would be called to a meeting in one of their big conference rooms and there would be a whole bunch of new faces there, pitching some cool idea or other,” says O’Donnell. “[At one point] it was going to be a visualisation with your mobile device.”

Difference of opinion

But there were fundamental differences between what Bungie had planned and what Activision – Destiny’s publisher, and keeper of the purse strings – wanted.

“I think Activision was confused [about] why you would ever use music as marketing… And the other thing is, I honestly don’t think they understood why we were working with Paul McCartney. I think they didn’t think that that was the right person for the demographic.”

News of a collaboration with McCartney had raised eyebrows when he revealed his involvement on Twitter in July 2012. His interest had been piqued during his attendance at E3 2009 following the announcement of The Beatles: Rock Band, which was preceded by Bungie’s unveiling of Halo ODST.

Loop symphony

“I had a contact in Los Angeles who worked out deals with actors we used on Halo,” O’Donnell recalls. “He was able to make contact with Paul’s people and set up a meeting between the two of us in spring of 2011. My impression was that Paul saw a new crop of fans come from Beatles Rock Band and was interested in seeing what was involved with creating music for video games. He seemed convinced that Bungie was working on a project that he could get behind.”

Within a few weeks, O’Donnell and McCartney were exchanging ideas for Destiny.

“The first thing he sent me was what he called his ‘loop symphony’,” says O’Donnell. “He used the same looping tape recorder that he used on Sgt. Pepper’s and Revolver… He hauled this tape recorder out of his attic.”

Working with regular collaborator Michael Salvatori, O’Donnell and McCartney set about developing Music of the Spheres into a fully fledged album, comprising eight movements.

Priorities

“I have all of these wonderful things, which included interesting things he did on his guitar that sort of loop and sound otherworldly… I think there are a couple of times in The Path, which is the first piece, and then I think The Prison, which is the seventh piece, where we use a recording of Paul doing this loop with his voice. This little funny thing. That’s Paul’s voice, which is cool.”

The album was completed in December 2012 following recording sessions at Capitol Studios in California, Avatar Studios in New York, and Abbey Road in London. Musical elements from Music of the Spheres accompanied Bungie’s big reveal of Destiny at a PlayStation 4 event in New York in February 2013. But after that, things started to go south.

“After that PlayStation 4 announcement, I said, ‘Let’s figure out how to release this. I don’t care if we have Harmonix do an iPad version with a visualiser for it. I mean, if we can’t pull the trigger on something big and interesting like that, that’s fine with me. Let’s just release it online.’ It had nothing to do with making money… It was always fan service, in my mind at least.”

Activision, on the other hand, had other priorities. “Activision had a lot of say on the marketing. I think that’s where things started to go wrong, for me… things started being handled badly, or postponed, and then all of a sudden I was seeing bits of Music of the Spheres being cut up and presented in ways that I wasn’t happy with.”

You can read the rest of this fantastic feature in Wireframe issue four, out 20 December in Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy Wireframe directly from us — worldwide delivery is available. And if you’d like to own a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download a free PDF.

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Toddler nightlight/stay-in-bed device

Living with a toddler is the best thing. It really is. Seen through their eyes, everything you’re jaded about becomes new and exciting. Every piece of music is new. Frog and Toad are real people. Someone doesn’t care that you’re really, really bad at drawing, believing that you’re actually a kind of cross between Leonardo and Picasso; and you have a two-foot-tall excuse to sing Gaston at the top of your voice in public. The parents of toddlers are allowed into the ball pit at soft play. There’s lots of cake. The hugs and kisses are amazing.

frog and toad

Frog and Toad. Real people. If you are in charge of small children and do not own any of the Frog and Toad series, get yourself to a bookshop pronto. You can thank me later.

However. If my experience here is anything to go by, you may also be so tired you’re walking into things a lot. It doesn’t matter. The hugs and kisses are, like I said, amazing. And there are things you can do to mitigate that tiredness. Enter the Pi.

stay focused

I’m lucky. My toddler sleeps through. But sometimes she has an…aggravating habit of early wakefulness. After 7am I’m golden. I can do 6.30 at a push. Any earlier than that, though, and I am dead-eyed and leather-visaged for the rest of the day. It’s not a good look. Enter equally new parent Cary Ciavolella, who has engineered a solution. This is a project so simple even the most sleep-deprived parent should be able to put it together, using Pimoroni parts you can easily buy online. Cary has thoughtfully made all the code available for you so you don’t have to do anything other than build the physical object.

Pi nightlight

Cary’s nightlight can produce a number of different sorts of white noise, and changes colour from red (YOU’RE MEANT TO BE ASLEEP, KID) through orange (you can play in your room) to green (it’s time to get up). Coloured lights are a sensible option: toddlers can’t read numbers, let alone a clock face. It’s all addressable via a website, which, if you’re feeling fancy, you can set up with a favicon on your phone’s home screen so it feels like an app.

White noise – I use a little box from Amazon which plays the sound of the sea – and red-spectrum nightlights have solid research behind them if you’re trying to soothe a little one to sleep. Once you cross over into blue light, you’ll stop the pineal gland from producing melatonin, which is why I hate the fan I bought for our bedroom with a burning, fiery passion. Some smart-alec thought that putting a giant blue led on the front to demonstrate that the fan was on was a smart idea, never mind the whirling blades which are obvious to at least three of the senses. (I have never tried tasting it.)

With this in mind, I’ve one tiny alteration to make to Cary’s setup: you can permanently disable the green LED on the Pi Zero itself so that the only lights visible are the Pimoroni Blinkt – namely the ones that your little one should be looking at to figure out whether it’s time to get up yet. Just add the following to the Zero’s /boot/config.txt and reboot.

# Disable the ACT LED on the Raspberry Pi.
dtparam=act_led_trigger=none
dtparam=act_led_activelow=on

 

 

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Christmas lights 2018

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! There’s much mistletoeing, and hearts will be glowing – as will thousands of Raspberry Pi-enabled Christmas light displays around the world.

Polish roadside crib

This morning I have mostly been spending my virtual time by a roadside in snowy Poland, inflicting carols on passers-by. (It turns out that the Polish carols this crib is programmed with rock a lot harder than the ones we listen to in England.) Visit the crib’s website to control it yourself.

Helpfully, Tomek, the maker, has documented some of the build over on Hackster if you want to learn more.

LightShow Pi

We are also suckers for a good Christmas son et lumiere. If you’re looking to make something yourself, LightShow Pi has been around for some years now, and goes from strength to strength. We’ve covered projects built with it in previous years, and it’s still in active development from what we can see, with new features for this Christmas like the ability to address individual RGB pixels. Most of the sound and music displays you’ll see using a Raspberry Pi are running LightShow Pi; it’s got a huge user base, and its online community on Reddit is a great place to get started.

2018 Christmas Light Show

Light display contains over 4,000 lights and 7,800 individual channels. It is controlled by 3 network based lighting controllers. The audio and lighting sequences are sent to the controllers by a Raspberry Pi.

This display from the USA must have taken forever to set up: you’re looking at 4,000 lights and 7,800 channels.  Here’s something more domestically proportioned from YouTube user Ken B, showing off LightShow Pi’s microweb user interface, which is perfect for use on your phone.

LightShow Pi Christmas Tree 2018

Demonstration of the microweb interface along with LED only operation using two matrices, lower one cycling.

Scared of the neighbours burning down your outdoor display, or not enough space for a full-size tree? Never fear: The Pi Hut’s 3D Christmas tree, designed by Rachel Rayns, formerly of this parish, is on sale again this year. We particularly loved this adaptation from Blitz City DIY, where Liz (not me, another Liz) RGB-ifies the tree: a great little Christmas electronics project to work through with the kids. Or on your own, because we don’t need to have all our fun vicariously through our children this Christmas. (Repeat ten times.)

RGB-ing the Pi Hut Xmas Tree Kit

The Pi Hut’s Xmas Tree Kit is a fun little soldering kit for the Raspberry Pi. It’s a great kit, but I thought it could do with a bit more color. This is just a quick video to talk about the kit and show off all the RGB goodness.

Any Christmas projects you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

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