Of course the Pi runs NetBSD

NetBSD, a rather good Unix-like operating system has released support for the Raspberry Pi Zero amongst other Raspberry Pi boards. Version 7.1 was made available on 11 March and can be downloaded from the NetBSD site. Instructions are also provided.

I first came across BSD years ago when a version was supplied on a magazine's cover disk for the Amiga. It started my absolute love of Unix, which culminated in my purchasing two Sun workstations (an Ultra 5 and Ultra 10) to run Solaris some years back. The FreeBSD project has a page that briefly covers the history of the various BSD operating systems and is worth a read.

What is very, very notable about Unix and BSD is stability: the release cycles are such that upgrades happen at a steady pace with very stable component packages. Oh, and to add: NetBSD supports a ridiculous list of computers. Scanning through that list I can see the Acorn Archimedes, Amiga (huzzah!), Cobalt Microservers (I owned a Sun Cobalt Raq 4 for quite a while), Psion PDAs (yes, really), Sega Dreamcast (yes, really really) and many more.

As NetBSD's tagline says: "Of course it runs NetBSD".

I am definitely going to be running NetBSD on one of my Raspberry Pi boards soon. If you are looking for an interesting alternative to Raspbian then do give NetBSD a try.

It's MeArm Pi on Kickstarter

Kickstarter can be a wonderful place to support great new ideas. One project that has sprung up and captured the hearts, minds (and pledges) of folk is MeArm Pi from Mime Industries. Following on from the very successful original MeArm robot arm Mime are presenting something great to the Raspberry Pi community. The project has already smashed it's £10k goal with almost £47k pledged at the time of writing. Doing the maths on the pledges that represents 844 arms at present. That's a lot of robotic hands to shake! Best of all: you still have until 6pm on March 8 to support the project and acquire your very own robot arm.

Mime describes MeArm Pi as "easy to assemble and not requiring extensive knowledge of electronics, the MeArm Pi STEM kit helps kids and adults learn robotics and teaches them how to code." That's cool. Very cool: robot arms are fun, programming is fun, and programming robot arms is twice the fun.

MeArm Pi

I briefly interviewed Ben Pirt joint founder of Mime. His passion for the new MeArm is clear: a desire to create a functioning robotic arm platform that simplifies the construction process enormously.

CD: What was the motivation to change the design of MeArm for MeArm Pi?

Ben: "The first MeArm has been built thousands of times (including a fair few times ourself!) and we wanted to broaden its appeal and try get even more children involved in making and programming it. So we decided to look at which parts of the build were particularly difficult. The number of screws came out as a big issue that was catching people out so we tried to re-work the design wherever possible not to need screws. Now the only screws left are on the joints where two pieces hinge together. The grip had a major re-work (from 9 screws down to 1) which made it much simpler to build."

It's worth pausing and considering this: the number of screws and fiddly components in a build really can influence the complexity and hence accessibility of the product. When I received the Maplin robot arm for Christmas a few years back I spent several hours putting together gear boxes, ensuring all was aligned and assembling the thing. While highly enjoyable in its own way (who doesn't like to build things) it was also frustrating: that's a lot of components to assemble *just* to get a fairly simple robot arm up and running! Mime's keen attempt to solve this build complexity problem is admirable.

Once I had built the Maplin arm I wanted to program it using a record and playback mechanism in Python. It was at this point I hit a few snags as precision playback just isn't easily possible with normal motors, and again it looks like MeArm Pi has overcome this issue.

CD: How accurate are the servos with MeArm Pi, i.e.: can you reliably pre-program repeatable movements?

Ben: "The servos are pretty accurate - they use metal gears for extra reliability. The big difference from the Maplin arm is that servos can be relied upon to be nicely repeatable so you can program them to do things again and again. Servos won’t drift out of calibration like motors."

Having non-drifting motors sounds like a dream come true! Don't get me wrong: I love the Maplin arm and easily recommend it to everyone as a low-cost way to get into robotics on the Raspberry Pi. Now though, Mime are offering a viable alternative that combines the hardware with ease of programming. Talking of programming, I asked Ben what else makes the MeArm so great:

Ben: "I think there are a lot of things that make the MeArm Pi better than the Maplin arm:
  • children build it themselves so they get a better understanding of how the mechanics works
  • the motor control is easier from the Raspberry Pi and can be programmed in any number of programming languages
  • the software is better and more suited to beginners"

It's worth noting that supplying purpose built control software to get up and running quickly is a great idea: it's what makes projects like Pi-Top so readily accessible for instance. Software for the Maplin arm does exist: we covered this in earlier issues of The MagPi a couple of times however it involves getting ones head around the internals of the USB protocol and while learning about USB Vendor IDs is "fun" in one way it certainly isn't conducive to encouraging people new to robotics into the hobby.

Ben also tells me that the age range of the arm is "officially...11+ but with some parental supervision it can be built by as young as 8 or 9 without too many problems." Producing a product that is interesting and accessible to age groups from primary to adult is a great achievement: "We believe in helping children to have fun whilst learning about technology and the MeArm Pi is completely designed around that goal". Superb.

It seems that MeArm Pi is not the only product that Mime are looking at for the future too:

Ben: "This is the first new product from Mime Industries since we formed the company. We’re going to be taking another look at updates to Mirobot as well as rolling the improvements to the MeArm mechanical design over to the other versions. We’ve got lots of ideas for new products but you’ll have to stay tuned for those!"

And stay tuned I most definitely shall.

MeArm Pi, available for another 6 days on Kickstarter.

MeArm Pi

Pi PoE HAT Kickstarter

Like all computers the Raspberry Pi can quickly become a spaghetti junction of cables, cables and more cables. And cables have a mind of their own and are evil, entwining themselves into knots the moment your back is turned. It is into this plethora of power, USB, ethernet and HDMI connections that Pi Supply comes to the rescue with a rather clever Power Over Ethernet (PoE) offering.

PoE is one of those it-does-exactly-what-it-says-on-the-tin offerings: providing power to the computer via an ethernet connection and hence meaning you can wave goodbye to a cable. It is quite a clever idea really: ethernet requires power, your computer requires power, why not combine the two? The Pi PoE HAT gives you just this, throwing in a handy programmable button as well. Plus, the GPIO pins remain available for further connections. Note though that you do need a PoE compatible switch or injector to provide the power though.

Last night when I was previewing the Kickstarter a thought occurred: why not combine PoE with PowerLine? Now THAT is a tasty idea: use ethernet for power and your house’s power circuit for ethernet. Googling shows me there are various options for this and I’ll definitely have to investigate this some more.

There are many valid cases for PoE and the Kickstarter gives some ideas about how this can be used.

PaPiRus ePaper HAT Kickstarter

Chatting with Aaron of Pi Supply recently I became aware that he was about to put something live on Kickstarter that is really exciting. I promised to keep quiet until launch day despite constantly wanting to shout “This is AWESOME!” from the roof tops.

Pi Supply are seeking funding for a superb ePaper / eInk HAT on Kickstarter called PaPiRus. It’s an absolutely genius design with four buttons mounted along one edge and up to a 2.7” ePaper display. Why is this “AWESOME” you may ask? Well, ePaper displays only require power when the image is updated. It is this fantastic property that gives the Amazon Kindle such excellent battery life in the “weeks” not “hours” category. Combined with the low power Raspberry Pi and you have something that’s cheap as chips to run. This is even more so with the Raspberry Pi A+. Alex Eames of Raspi.tv did an excellent write-up of the respective Pi’s power usage.

Now, ePaper is not going to be for everyone. If you require colour, or fast screen updates in the ms range then a traditional LED/LCD screen will be more to your taste. But for status displays, Twitter feeds and the like, and especially if you need to run off batteries (this HAT will work stacked with Pi Supply’s Pi Juice) you just can’t beat ePaper. Tim Cox once repurposed a Nook eReader as an ePaper display for his Pi, but obviously this requires a fair bit of effort to get working. The beauty of the Raspberry Pi HATs is that they are pretty much plug and play, hence PaPiRus gets a massive thumbs up.

What’s more, PaPiRus is being made by Pi Supply who have a history of creating superb add-ons for the Raspberry Pi (and PiJuice of course) that are delivered as promised. I’ve no qualms at all about entrusting my money to Pi Supply for one of their projects. Pi Supply just hit the £5k fully funded mark with 30 days to go. This is clearly a project you can have confidence in.

Head on over to Kickstarter to back PaPiRus.


A clock for your Pi

A Kickstarter is currently running for PiMuxClock. It is a great self-solder or pre-assembled (depending on what one pledges) kit that gives you a 4-digit clock, a header to attach a real-time clock module (not essential to use the kit), temperature sensor and a few other bits and pieces too.

What is absolutely fantastic is the price, which at £7 for the early bird (and £8-£10 for the not-so--early or the I-want-more-features pledger) represents stunning value for money. It is low priced kits like these that actively get people into soldering. Looking at the parts list this is a straightforward kit that has a definite pleasing end result and I imagine would be great as a supervised soldering project for kids.


PiJuice - a brilliant portable power solution

I’ve been looking for a portable, battery powered, solution for my Raspberry Pi for a while now. There are some good offerings (and some less-so) on the market but none have really ticked all the boxes for me: compact, slimline, capable of automatically not frying the Pi when I also want to run from mains power, and with a passthrough GPIO connector (stackable with other goodies). Effectively I’m looking for something dinky that will fit on a Zumo Robot.

Today, a great email appeared in my inbox from PiSupply describing PiJuice, a portable battery solution that ticks those boxes and more besides. It looks (to use my favourite word) AWESOME. The slimline design and HAT form factor is very in keeping with producing dinky robots. I’m liking what I see here.

Watching the video on Kickstarter I can see the team behind PiJuice really thought long and hard about how to produce the ideal battery for the Raspberry Pi. For example, at one reward level they offer a solar cell for charging in remote locations. This is a really tempting proposition for so many Raspberry Pi projects I read about in the developing world.

But, it doesn’t stop there. The Kickstarter page and video describes tutorials that they will be producing covering interesting things one can do with PiJuice, including a portable point and shoot camera which looks great.

The funding on this project appears to be going crazy: in the first day they have already exceeded their target by ~£2000 (and climbing - every time I refresh more have backed it). I’ve backed it straight away.

Kudos to the team behind PiJuice for producing what looks to be one of the most useful and interesting add-on boards for the Raspberry Pi.


The MagPi - the Foundation's official magazine

Pasted Graphic
Some excellent news: The MagPi has become the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s official magazine. A new team has been busy producing Issue 31 and it looks absolutely fantastic, reads incredibly well and is just the ticket. The original team, myself included, have produced 30 issues (and a special) of The MagPi, but with other commitments it was becoming tricky to meet the month-end deadline (you may have noticed we skipped an issue a few months back to enable us to play catch-up). Hence, with the Foundation behind it and a full-time editor on board my favourite Raspberry Pi magazine has a certain future ahead.

The new-look MagPi will continue to be available as a free download each month and will also be available for tablets soon.

Congratulations to Russell, Ben and the rest of the new team on a brilliant (thirty) first issue!



Charlieplexing Kickstarter (with a Christmas Tree)

Over on Kickstarter I have just come across an interesting GPIO Christmas Tree project. Now, before you wonder why the world needs yet another GPIO Christmas tree, this one is a bit different as it uses something called Charlieplexing.

I’ll be honest and say I’d never heard of Charlieplexing before this point (multiplexing, yes). It’s a really interesting technique for getting more functionality out of a smaller number of GPIO pins. Andrew Gale, who is running the Kickstarter campaign, has an interesting video on how this technique works up on YouTube.

Andrew’s pocketmoneytronics is building up a great set of low cost interesting Raspberry Pi boards. Good stuff.

The MagPi at Bristol Digimakers - with competition prizes

The MagPi has agreed to co-sponsor the competition Bristol Digimakers on the 4th October at the At-Bristol Centre in Bristol. We’re offering up a bundle each of Volumes 1 and 2 of the magazine. Plus one of the organisers, Caroline Higgins from University of Bristol has managed to secure the famous Blue Pi as a prize as well. These colourful Pi’s are like blue-coated gold dust they’re so rare.

I’ll be running The MagPi stand at the event, which is an absolutely top-notch event for people in the South West who find the events in Cambridge and Manchester a might too far to travel. With technology demonstrates from the University of Bristol, local companies and several individuals (no doubt with robots: there are always robots, and robots are a Good Thing) plus a ton of workshops to get your brains around Scratch, Python and various hardware challenges (usually with LEGO(R) Mindstorms, Raspberry Pis and LEDs galore) it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet up with people, brush up on your skills and learn new things.

The event is primarily aimed at kids of all ages, but there are also plenty of teachers, parents and people interested in technology who come along too. The event has a great vibe, with a real buzz around technology. Great stuff.

So what’s going to be going on at The MagPi stand? Well we’re going to have a bundle of hardware goodies for you to see and play with:

  • The new HDMIPi LCD for the Raspberry Pi
  • Traffic lights with PiStop from Tim Cox
  • Using a Slice of Pi/O to control a 3 Line Follower Sensor from Ryanteck. The Slice of Pi/O is a great base upon which to connect various robot sensors and I’ll be showing you how to use this piece of tasty kit.
  • Using a Saleae Loic Analyzer with the Raspberry Pi (using it to show the importance of pull up and pull down)
And yes, the robot arm will be back dishing out sweets to all those that can master the fiddly controls.

Plus a ton of Raspberry Pi books for you to browse to get ideas for that next purchase.

A collection of event links:

digimakers014 digimakers013 digimakers012 digimakers011
A few photos from previous MagPi and other stands at Digimakers (yes those are musical bananas)

HDMIPi: top notch customer support

Alex Eames is a star. My HDMIPi unfortunately broke when the USB connector snapped off of the driver board with nary a hint of pressure. Turns out there’d been a problem with manufacturer that Alex and co had only just become aware of. They’re fixing every board going out (so yours likely won’t have this issue) but I was fortunate (!) enough to receive one sent out quickly, i.e.: before problem was unearthed.

Total turnaround from reporting the issue to receiving a replacement driver board was well under 48 hours. Superb. This is the kind of customer service that engenders a true sense of loyalty to a product and brand. It’s one of the reasons why I’m a huge Amazon fan. Just as with Alex, whenever something I’ve purchased from Amazon fails they get a fix to me pronto without any quibbles. I’ll *always* support companies who provide such excellent support.

Broken HDMIPi
A sad HDMIPi-day.

HDMIPi is happy again (and yes that’s an Apple wireless keyboard attached. More in a future post)

PacktPub limited time sale: all eBooks and videos $10 each

It’s sale time at Packt Publishing to celebrate ten years of publishing!

I’m a big fan of most of Packt’s books and have been for years. They’ve produced some absolute gems including Tim Cox’s Raspberry Pi Cookbook for Python Programmers for which I was one of the technical reviewers. Personally I think this is THE book to buy to engage in some really interesting and different Raspberry Pi programming projects.

But it’s not just Raspberry Pi books that are on sale, oh no! The ENTIRE catalogue of eBooks and videos is up for grabs at the discounted price of $10 (£5.90+VAT, or £7.08 in real money) each. Plus you can buy as many as you want. Over the years I’ve bought many books and the odd video from Packt on subjects as varied as test automation, penetration testing, JBoss, Linux, Squid, Python, PHP, AJAX, Raspberry Pi and a heck of a lot else so as a publisher they come highly recommended.

Tonight’s shopping night for me over at Packt...

Be aware that the sale ends in a couple of days time, on the 5th of this month.

Disclaimer: Packt are giving me two eBooks to mention their sale, but I stand by what I say even so: they’ve some absolutely fine IT books on their bookshelf that you may want on yours.

TiddlyBot fun and simple Raspberry Pi Robot

Browsing Kickstarter I just came across the wonderful TiddlyBot by PiBot.

I first met one of the PiBot team at a Raspberry Pi DigiMakers event in Bristol a few months back where I was incredibly impressed by the passion shown and the quality of their PiBot robot. A really compact, very well engineered build. It looks like they’ve come up with something fantastic in the new TiddlyBot, which is currently over on Kickstarter. This little robot can draw, follow lines (curiosity has me wondering if one TiddlyBot could draw a line for another to follow), output a live wireless video feed and be controlled from a web interface. Fantastic.

This looks like enormous fun and is exactly the kind of tech that really gets kids (and adults like me) interested.

Nice one PiBot.

Head over to Kickstarter and support the project now: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1320310506/tiddlybot-fun-and-simple-raspberry-pi-robot

The MagPi issue 23 is out - and Ethical WebSites is sponsoring the competition

It’s great to see The MagPi reach its second birthday with the release of issue 23. For those that don’t know, I’m one of the editorial / layout team working behind the scenes on this great magazine. I also run Ethical WebSites, a web development business in the UK.

For issue 23 we’re running a huge competition (details on pages 18-19) with over £2000 of prizes. As part of this I decided to donate two domain name + hosting (with full control panel) packages to the first and second prize winners.

Oh, and I’ve also a special offer for anyone wanting to host Raspberry Pi related projects online - take a look at the top banner item at Ethical WebSites and follow the [more] link you’ll find for more information.

Happy Birthday MagPi :)

DigiMakers At-Bristol, Saturday 16th November

On Saturday I’ll be attending the At-Bristol DigiMakers event jointly running The MagPi stand with Tim Cox (Meltwater) who runs Pi Hardware. DigiMakers is the evolution of the Raspberry Pi Bootcamps that have been run at the venue several times over the last year.

This time round the theme is robots. ROBOTS, GLORIOUS ROBOTS!

As well as the opportunity to purchase The MagPi printed volume one at a discounted price on the day we will have lots going on on the stand. Expect to see Pi-Lite playing Pong, an XLoBorg demo showing how to make a digital compass, and a few robots too including one based on the very affordable Magician chassis using PicoBorg as the controller, and hopefully a hexapod may put in an appearance too.

If you are interested in building your own robot you may be interested to read some help and guidance I’ve written especially for the event under The MagPi banner as one of the magazine’s writers. The PDF for this is free to download.

More information from BCS and you can also see details at Eventbrite.

Look forward to seeing you there.

Issue 17 of The MagPi released

Issue 17 of The MagPi has been released in PDF and online (via Issuu) formats.

Of note in this issue, and for those of you who didn’t see the Kickstarter (which raised a crazy $127,537 on a goal of just $1,889), this issue covers BrickPi in depth. BrickPi is an easy to use shield that sits on your Pi and lets you control LEGO® Mindstorm sensors and motors. Now the clever thing here is that LEGO® will happily sell you the parts without buying the actual Mindstorm kit, ie: you can save money by not forking out for the NXT Intelligent Brick and get much greater freedom of control by using your Raspberry Pi instead. This is a very neat shield.

In addition some other highlights include articles on eye tracking (which has the unfortunate side-effect of making the user look like a founding member of the Borg Collective), an interesting aside on the DS18B20 digital temperature sensor, using the Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI), and using long range radio communications make for great reading.

There's no rubbish here: not a poorly tree in sight

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve really looked through The Pi Store, so it’s time to take another look. For those of you who may not know, The Pi Store is a bit like the Apple App Store or Google Play in that it provides an easy to use browsing, downloading and installing interface for The Raspberry Pi.

While The Pi Store contains a much smaller collection of applications than its cousins there is not a sausage of rubbishness to be seen. Don’t get me wrong, Google Play (for example) contains a wealth of amazing applications, but it also contains a large (too large) quantity of repetitious applications that don’t offer anything different from the masses. In essence: lots of great stuff hidden in the forest of poorly trees.

Contrast to The Pi Store and we currently have 82 applications available* that would make a worthy addition to any Pi.

From Pi3D (that’s 3D via Python programming) to copies of The MagPi, to emulators for MS DOS, Playstation 1, the Atari800, ZX Spectrum and MAME, to business tools like Asterisk and FreePBX, via LibreOffice and NeoRouter (VPN) to 3D games like Open Arena and Doom, to strategy games like Freeciv, through the text adventure King’s Treasure and on to the world of surreal with Lunar Panda (“The year is 3016 and Pandas are now the dominant species of planet Earth.”) ... pauses for breath... And onwards to graphics with GrafX2 and remote control with WebIOPi. It really is a fantastic collection of software.

The Pi Store is well laid out and easy to navigate. Many applications are free and some cost a quid or three. It’s worth taking a look.

The Pi Store, available now through all good web connections.

* Observant people will notice that there are many many more applications that can be installed on a Linux computer such as the Pi, hence don’t take this to mean there are _only_ 82 apps available for the Pi.

Raspberry Pi Python Cookbook: now taking pre-orders

Raspberry Pi Cookbook for Python Programmers
Those great people over at Packt Publishing have just started taking pre-orders for Raspberry Pi Cookbook for Python Programmers. Written by Tim Cox of Pi Hardware fame this is looking to be a great resource that teaches exactly what it says on the tin.

Tim is a regular contributor to and member of the editorial team for The MagPi. He also jointly runs The MagPi’s stand at the BCS Bristol Boot Camp events providing various demos and tutorials that show off his technowizardry. Consequently he knows his stuff.

Packt state that the book will provide information on creating 3D worlds and expanding the Pi via interfacing with hardware amongst many topics (those two just particularly grabbed my attention), and all focussed on Python 3, which I think helps keep things nice and consistent.

More info when I’ve a copy in my hands.

Raspberry Pi Handbook magazine magazine out now

The postman dropped off something I’ve been waiting to see for a while, the Raspberry Pi Handbook, a Linux Magazine Special (#14). 98 pages of Pi goodness with very few adverts makes for a compelling read. Although the price tag of £7.99 feels a little steep that’s the price of more content and less adverts hence I feel it is justified.
Inside you’ll find lots of new articles on the Pi covering the OS and software, programming and hardware hacking. There’s a particularly interesting article on hooking up a USB weather station to the Pi and outputting the data recorded via a web server (also hosted on the Pi) that I think I’ll be trying out. There is also a very interesting interview with Eben Upton that is worth a read, noting that this interview is available to read for free online. The magazine comes complete with a DVD containing a number of different operating systems for the Pi which is handy to avoid potentially lengthy downloads in some cases, albeit at the price of the ISO images burned to the disc eventually becoming out of date.

The magazine also includes several articles re-printed from The MagPi and it is good to see The MagPi (even if only in part) making its debut on the shelves of WH Smith.

One thing I especially like about the Handbook is that it rapidly goes from beginner to advanced without feeling the need to trudge through endless “this is what a keyboard is: you press the keys and magic happens” very basic introductions to the Pi. There is a lot of straightforward stuff contained in the magazine but the reader is rapidly taken on to advanced topics including compiling from source. Good to see.

Raspberry Pi Handbook, available from... well pretty much anywhere that sells magazines.

Pocket Space Craft - fly your own spaceship to the Moon (for real)

The Pocket Space Craft project is now LIVE on Kickstarter. This is a genuine opportunity to own your own space craft that flies to the Moon inside a CubeSat. I met Michael the founder of Pocket Space Craft at the Raspberry Pi Boot Camp. Thousands of pocket space craft will be packed into the CubeSat and launched. The Kickstarter project provides you with opportunities to customise the software and hardware of the craft which leads to all kinds of “what-if” possibilities.

Why pocket? Well, “smaller than a CD and thinner than a sheet of paper” sums it up nicely. I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of the craft at the Boot Camp and was impressed at the methods the team has used to reduce weight and create something so thin (maybe it should be called an iPocket?) Managing to get solar cells, a system on a chip (you thought the Broadcom SoC on the Raspberry Pi was small? That’s nothing compared to this), and additional electronics onto such a tiny platform is truly impressive.


But the fun does not stop there: the project will provide an Android and iOS Pocket Mission Control enabling interaction at every step of the journey.

Do support the Kickstarter project, it is ABSOLUTELY worth it. You have until August 26th.

Issue 14 of The MagPi released

Issue 14 of The MagPi has been released. This issue contains a review of the Bristol Raspberry Pi Boot Camps that RaspTut has been attending along with The MagPi. Also in this issue is the first in a series of articles about the new camera board add-on available for the Pi.

As always, the magazine is available for free to read online or download as a PDF.

New book on Raspbmc

Sam Nazarko is great. Not only has he developed the incredibly impressive Raspbmc media centre for the Raspberry Pi based on XBMC, he is also now a published author. Raspberry Pi Media Center from Packt Publishing covers pretty much all you could want to know about setting up XBMC on the Raspberry Pi.

From the blurb on Packt Publishing’s website:

Discover how you can stream video, music, and photos straight to your TV
Play existing content from your computer or USB drive
Watch and record TV via satellite, cable, or terrestrial
Build your very own library that automatically includes detailed information and cover material

  • When I wrote the XBMC article for The MagPi I spent a fair while conversing over email with Sam to ensure I got the technical details right. He has a very thorough understanding of using the Raspberry Pi as a media centre. Hence kudos points and bragging rights are well deserved with the release of his book.
Hats off to Sam.


The blog is back...

Sorry for the lack of updates over the last couple of months. I’ve some excited projects on the go at the moment. More entries here soon... in fact there will be one almost immediately.

The MagPi Kickstarter campaign

The MagPi magazine is now running a Kickstarter project with the aim of getting printed copies of all 8 issues in volume 1, plus a special binder to hold them all, into your hands. From the Kickstarter page:

Bring The MagPi magazine, the best and only magazine for the Raspberry Pi enthusiast, from the digital realm into the physical realm.

I’ve posted a fair bit on here about The MagPi, in part because I write articles for the magazine, but also because I genuinely believe it is a superb read with excellent well thought out articles. I’ve learnt lots by reading each issue and have seen the team grow in strength and capability over the months. This means that each issue is a valuable resource to help anyone of any experience level to get more from their Raspberry Pi.

The current issue shows just how detailed the articles are by presenting a foolproof way to catch Father Christmas (oh ok then... “Santa”) later this month. Now in my eyes that alone is worth contributing to the Kickstarter project (anyone remember the Red Dwarf episode Backwards?)

Please do support the Kickstarter project.

The MagPi issue 8 is out

The MagPi issue 8 has been released, featuring my second ever published program when I take over The Python Pit again. This time around I show how to use Python’s subprocess to create desktop widgets. Think: those things what Windows Vista and 7 has and you won’t be far off.

The Python program has an intentional flaw, but I only reveal general details on this to the readership. This is by design as one of the things I always liked about programs in those 1980s computer magazines (you know, the one’s that listed the code and you had to type it yourself back in the days before cover cassettes / disks or discs became the norm) was that you often had to finish the program off, or improve it to get it to work _just_right_.

If you are reading this I’ll let you know a bit more detail to help you out.

As I note at the end of the article, refreshing the Pygame screen for each widget occurs at the same time as each checks for new content. The problem this causes is that if I drag another window on top of either Pygame window it will blank the output until the next check for content, which could be hours away. The fix is quite straightforward and involves adding an if statement that uses datetime to determine when to check for new content, and changing time.sleep(28800) and time.sleep(3600) to both be time.sleep(1). This means that each pygame widget’s screen will refresh every second (change this to 0.1 for faster refresh, every tenth of a second, at the cost of higher CPU usage by Python) BUT a check for new content will still only happen periodically when the new datetime value is suitably different from the old datetime value. You do NOT just want to change to time.sleep(1) on its own as this will cause both URLs to be queried every second for new content which is much too frequent.

The MagPi issue 7 is out

The MagPi issue 7 has been released. What’s more I have two articles published in this issue: an interview with Mike Thompson who created Raspbian, and my first ever published computer program! I took over The Python Pit this month to demonstrate how one can implement command line arguments to make configuring an application that is about to be run easier than having to manually edit the program code.

I am especially pleased with the program I wrote as it generates graphical output (see image below) that I used to draw by hand when I was a child. Back then I don’t even think it occurred to me to write a program to do this!


The program supports a number of command line arguments to change the output. Run:
line_generator.py -h
to see all of the options.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s the output of the above:

usage: line_generator_edit.py [-h] [-s SCALE] [-t STEP] [-r {y,n}]

Render shape

optional arguments:
-h, --help show this help message and exit
-s SCALE Render size, default=2, 200x200px)
-t STEP Step value (default=5): lower the value for denser lines
-r {y,n} Render line by line (slower) (y) or only display finished object
(faster) (n)? (default=y)


Now with added Pi... 512MB model B's are shipping

Great news from the Raspberry Pi Foundation: Model B Pi’s are now shipping with 512MB as standard. Huzzah we say!

Read more over on raspberrypi.org

The MagPi: now available in a printed edition

Everyone’s favourite Raspberry Pi magazine, The MagPi (www.themagpi.com) is now available in print edition for issue 6. You can order it online from ModMyPi direct. The magazine also remains available as a free electronic download.

Oh and good news: I spoke with The People In Charge and they were able to drop VAT from the purchase price of the hard copy as magazines are zero rated over here.

The MagPi is produced by a collection of individuals from different backgrounds (including yours truly), all with an interest in computing and the Raspberry Pi. Each month provides articles and interviews covering a wide range of hardware and software projects. Issue 6 features an interview I undertook with David Hunt of Camera Pi fame along with many other excellent articles and tutorials.

The MagPi issue 6 is out

The MagPi issue 6 has been released, featuring an interview written by yours truly with David Hunt of Camera Pi fame. Camera Pi is a superb amalgamation of Pi + DSLR camera that gives David lots of control over the photographic process.

The MagPi Issue 5 featuring an article on XBMC

The MagPi issue 5 has been released. This issue contains an article on XBMC written by yours truly. I have been really impressed with the recent performance and feature improvements to both OpenELEC and Raspbmc and I attempt to cover some of the great new stuff that is available, like CEC, in this article.

Read and enjoy :)

Unlimited ordering is now GO!

As reported by The Raspberry Pi Foundation the limit of one Raspberry Pi per customer has been lifted, and you are free to order as many as you want:


Welcome to the new blog

Previously content was added to www.ethicalwebsites.co.uk/blog/raspberrypi however with so many interesting happenings um... happening in the world of Raspberry Pi I decided to create a site dedicated to the Pi.

On this site you will find articles, tutorials, and a smidgen of news. The focus will be on the former two, with news reserved just for those _really_ interesting things (such as Raspberry Pi winning at the Nominet Internet Awards).

Raspberry Pi wins at the Nominet Internet Awards

Superb. Well deserved:

Raspberry Pi wins the Nominet Outstanding Contribution to the UK Internet Award 2012:


This is fantastic news and is well deserved. Superb bit of kit, excellent community and fantastic news for those who created it all in the first place.