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Happy birthday to us!

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It’s the Raspberry Pi’s third birthday today (or as near as we can get: we launched on February 29 in a leap year). To celebrate we’re having a huge party/conference/scrum over the weekend in Cambridge – we’ve sold 1,300 tickets and I’m currently hiding in the press room to get this post written. I’m on a really overloaded WiFi network, so I’m having trouble uploading pictures at the minute: we’ll have some for you next week.

Three years ago, we made 2,000 little computers, and I remember looking at the pallet, and thinking: “Cripes. Can’t believe we’ve made so many computers. That’s amazing.”

We’ve sold half a million of the things just this month. Thanks to everyone who’s joined us on this extraordinarily weird journey – you’re all brilliant.

This is becoming an annual tradition: Matt Timmons Brown, one of my favourite 15-year-olds, has made us another celebratory video. (Here’s last year’s.) Thank you Matt!

 

 

PiJuice – The Portable Power Solution for the Raspberry Pi

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PiJuice is a new product being launched on KickStarter on 28th February 2015. It provides a wireless, off-grid power solution to for the Raspberry Pi. It can be used as the basis of a solar powered project or as an un-interruptable power supply. The onboard real-time clock (RTC) allows for intelligent deep sleep and automated wake-up functionality.

This will allow users to set their Pis free from its power supply. It provides the ultimate power solution for portable projects with solar capability for free off-grid power.

The PiJuice has been developed to optimise the Raspberry Pi even further by making it self-powered and portable. The team behind PiJuice wanted to provide not only the best portable hardware/software solution, but also a set of inspiring and affordable guided projects for fun, learning, and to break your Pi out into the real world.

Here are few of the unique projects that the PiJuice makes possible:

  • Build the best and most compact Raspberry Pi Camera
  • Build Your Own Raspberry Pi Laptop
  • Create an awesome Digital Radio
  • Build a nano Raspberry Pi Robot
  • Build a hand-held games console

Ultimate integrated power is one thing but what if the Raspberry Pi could be renewably powered too?  Solar power is free, clean, and green and PiJuice Solar is the most affordable and efficient solar solution for the Raspberry Pi on the market.

PiJuice Solar is self-monitoring and, like a space satellite, can become a completely autonomous system. You can use the PiJuice Solar for autonomous camera systems, weather stations, off-grid desktops, and so many other great outdoor projects.

PiJuice makes the Raspberry Pi an independent, stand-alone platform. By using intelligent power behaviour, the integrated battery will keep itself topped up when plugged in, and supply any extra power to the Pi as required.

The PiJuice is a highly capable, un-interruptable power supply (UPS) complete with a real-time clock (RTC) for intelligent deep sleep and automated wake-up functionality. It also features an onboard programmable switch and LED and conforms to the Raspberry Pi HAT specification, complete with on-board EEPROM for easy plug and play operation.

Aaron Shaw, co-creator, said:

We have been working for nearly a year to bring this product to reality. We are delighted to launch PiJuice and hope that it can become the ultimate product for portable and remote Raspberry Pi projects.

PiJuice is not just a product but an entire learning platform. We will be launching a number of exciting open source projects and tutorials from the outset, and will continue to develop more quality content to help our customers get the most out of their Raspberry Pis and PiJuice add-on.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of PiJuice is the renewable power generation capability. We are already in talks with a number of organisations and charities with the aim of implementing PiJuice in remote and off-grid communities in the developing world.

I am excited to see where this can go.

Pledges to support the project start at just £1, so the PiJuice platform offers a cost effective way to get your RasPi on the move. The full retail price is £25, but you can get hold of a PiJuice during the Kickstarter for just £20. To purchase a PiJuice in a ready to go kit with the new Raspberry Pi 2 a case, SD card and PSU, pledgers are asked for £70. So there’s an option available for every budget.

To pledge to fund PiJuice, please visit the Kickstarter campaign and see the video at http://PiJuice.com.

All change: meet the new MagPi!

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Some of you may have sniffed this in the wind: there have been some changes at The MagPi, the community Raspberry Pi magazine. The MagPi has been run by volunteers, with no input from the Foundation, for the last three years. Ash Stone, Will Bell, Ian MacAlpine and Aaron Shaw, who formed the core editorial team, approached us a few months ago to ask if we could help with what had become a massive monthly task; especially given that half the team has recently changed jobs or moved overseas.

We had a series of discussions, which have resulted in the relaunch of the MagPi you see today. Over the last few months we’ve been working on moving the magazine in-house here at the Foundation. There’s a lot that’s not changing: The MagPi is still your community magazine; it’s still (and always) going to be available as a free PDF download (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0); it’s still going to be full of content written by you, the community.

We don’t make any money out of doing this. Even if in the future we make physical copies available in shops, we don’t expect to break even on the magazine; but we think that offline resources like this are incredibly important for the community and aid learning, so we’re very happy to be investing in it.

Russell Barnes, who has ten years of experience editing technology magazines, has joined us as Managing Editor, and is heading up the magazine. He’s done an incredible job over the last couple of months, and I’m loving working with him. Russell says:

I’m really excited to be part of The MagPi magazine.

Like all great Raspberry Pi projects, The MagPi was created by a band of enthusiasts that met on the Raspberry Pi forum. They wanted to make a magazine for fellow geeks, and they well and truly succeeded. 

It might look a bit different, but the new MagPi is still very much a magazine for and by the Raspberry Pi community. It’s also still freely available under a Creative Commons license, so you can download the PDF edition free every issue to share and remix.

The MagPi is now a whopping 70 pages and includes a mix of news, reviews, features and tutorials for enthusiasts of all ages. Issue 31 is just a taste of what we’ve got in store. Over the coming months we’ll be showing you how the Raspberry Pi can power robots, fly to the edge of space and even cross the Atlantic!

The biggest thanks, of course, has to go to Ash, Will, Ian, Aaron and everybody else – there are dozens of you – who has worked on The MagPi since the beginning. You’ve made something absolutely remarkable, and we promise to look after The MagPi just as well as you have done.

So – want to see the new issue? Here it is! Click to find a download page.

 

Happy Birthday! The Raspberry Pi Is Three Years Old!

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The Raspberry Pi is three years old this weekend and has sold over 5 million units making it the most popular British computer ever made. Sales figures are great but what matters is the user base, community and support. Thankfully that has continued to grow steam-rollering many would-be “Pi killers”. The volume of material available for the Pi is staggering and it’s growing every day.

There have been a number of important milestones in the last 12 months including :

  • The release of the Raspberry Pi Compute module
  • Sales hitting 3 million
  • The release of the Raspberry Pi Model B+
  • Sales hitting 4 million
  • The release of the Raspberry Pi Model A+
  • The release of the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
  • Sales hitting 5 million
  • The MagPi magazine becoming the Official magazine of the Pi

To celebrate a number of Pi fans have created compilation videos which you can see below:

Happy 3rd Birthday Raspberry Pi (by MrUKTechReviews)

Three Years of Pi! (- TheRaspberryPiGuy)

Tangram: An Open Source Map Rendering Library

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I have a Raspberry Pi project that I’d love to use street maps for, but it would be a daunting challenge for me to figure out how to read map data and write the code to draw the maps on screen. It’s why I was delighted to discover Tangram ES, which is a library for rendering 2D and 3D maps using OpenGL ES 2 with data from OpenStreetMap. The library works on a number of devices, including of course Raspberry Pi.

Patricio Gonzalez Vivo (from the video above) and the team at Mapzen are responsible for the open source project, which is an offshoot of their WebGL map rendering library, Tangram. While Tangram ES is still a work-in-progress, they’ve been using Raspberry Pi 2 to speed up their development of the library and they’re ready for more people to take it for a spin.

Structured a lot like a research and development lab, Mapzen is a startup founded with the idea that mapping done collaboratively, transparently, and in the open can produce more resilient software, and ultimately, better maps. Their focus is on open source tools and using open data to create the building blocks for future mapping applications, including search & geocoding, routing, and transit, in addition to the rendering work they’re doing with Tangram.

Patricio is a graphics engineer on Tangram, responsible for implementing different graphical features such as tessellation, lights, materials, environmental maps, and other CG effects. The team also includes Brett Camper, who is Mapzen’s co-founder, as well as Peter Richardson, Ivan Willing, and Karim Naaji. The ES version of Tangram was started by Matt Blair and Varun Talwar.

“Last December Karim and I thought it could be interesting to get Tangram ES running on a Raspberry Pi,” said Patricio. “At the beginning we thought it would be difficult and probably slow, but at the end we were surprised by the speed of the app and how easy the implementation was. Cross-platform C++ development is possible!”

“In a way, the Pi is an ideal test platform for developing graphics software that targets low-power systems,” said Matt. “The OpenGL ES 2 implementation on the Pi is the strictest that we’ve encountered, so it has become our gold standard for ensuring correct usage of OpenGL. The only major missing piece on the Pi was a compiler that supports C++11, which Tangram uses extensively. However since the Pi is a complete Linux distribution, installing the packages we needed with apt was a breeze.”

Don’t have to take Matt’s word for it; you can install and test drive Tangram ES on the Raspberry Pi right now:

Installing Tangram ES

Using Raspbian, here’s how to install the Tangram ES library from the command line and execute the included sample code:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install cmake g++-4.7 libcurl4-openssl-dev
cd ~
git clone https://github.com/tangrams/tangram-es.git
cd tangram-es
git submodule init && git submodule update
make rpi
cd build/rpi/bin
./tangram

Announcement: Creative Technologists 2015-16

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Hey everyone!

After much preparation we are super happy to announce an exciting new project from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

 

The Raspberry Pi Creative Technologists is a mentoring programme for creative people interested in technology aged 16 – 21 years old. If your passion is the creative arts, and you’re wondering how you can use technology to enhance that, this is for you.

Ben and I are heading up the programme, and the first year will run from April 2015 to April 2016. We will provide individual and group mentoring via online video chats, industry networking and technical support. It’s free to participate. As well as costs of food, travel and accommodation, each participant will also receive a Raspberry Pi 2 starter kit and a £300 materials grant, and the group will receive a £1000 grant for exhibition costs.

Applications are now open and the deadline is 9am on 31st March 2015.

We are both certified Arts Award Gold Advisers – so participants will have the opportunity to complete Trinity College London’s Arts Award Gold accreditation; a Level 3 Award, a QCF credit value of 15, and 35 UCAS points.

We will also have some amazing partners helping us out with mentoring and site visits: Victoria and Albert Museum Digital Programmes, Writers’ Centre Norwich, FutureEverything, Pimoroni, Saladhouse and Hellicar&Lewis.

For full details on the programme, and how to apply, visit the new Creative Technologists page.

Welcome James to our Education Team

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If you visited us at the Bett Show in January, or came to Picademy in October or February half term, then you will recognise James Robinson as one of our education team volunteers. He is a well-established member of the Computing At School community, as both a CAS Master Teacher and CAS Hub Leader for Cambridge. He is also a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator and a frequent attendee of Cambridge Raspberry Jams.

I’ve known James for roughly a year now. He is a hugely successful and experienced teacher whose opinion I have sought on regular occasions. We also seem to keep bumping into him at Computing education events like the CAS Conference, and PyconUK as well as at community events like Piwars. It seemed like we were destined to work together!

James says:

I have always enjoyed tinkering with technology and understanding exactly what’s going on under the surface. To learn more, I studied Computer Science at university, and graduated with first class honours. This enhanced my passion for the subject, and I worked at IBM for a while. I initially trained as a maths teacher, but within a term I was leading an ICT department in a middle school, and offering training to non-specialists. Most recently I worked at Soham Village College as lead teacher for Computing. I am very excited about the introduction of Computing to KS3 and 4, and enjoy testing and developing projects with students. My current interests and projects include: using Raspberry Pi in the classroom, Minecraft Pi, Sonic Pi and High Altitude Ballooning. Looking forward to working on the weather station and getting more schools involved with Pi in the sky!

As part of the Foundation’s Education Team, James will be writing educational resources for the website (especially schemes of work for teachers of KS4), as well as continuing to assist with Picademies and other outreach. James has the best case I’ve ever seen for all his Raspberry Pi bits and bobs, and as soon as I saw it I knew he would fit in around here.

She said yes

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Matt Broach made this box, which contains a Pi, to propose to his girlfriend Jackie.

She’s now his fiancée. The box does something at the end of this video that made my heart go boom-biddy-boom. Beautiful job, Matt.

Congratulations to you both from everybody at Pi Towers!

Pipsta – The Raspberry Pi Printer With Big Ideas

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Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to receive one of the first Pipsta printers. The thermal printer is described by its makers as “a smart little printer that’s full of big ideas” and it gives your Pi the ability to print onto rolls of thermal paper.

Thermal printers don’t use ink which makes them cheap and easy to run.

The complete kit includes :

  • A Pipsta printer
  • Acrylic case
  • Power supply unit
  • 1 thermal label roll
  • 1 thermal paper roll
  • Pipsta printer cables

All you need to add is a Raspberry Pi. Ideally a Model B+ but the printer is compatible with a Model B or an A+. Although I’m using a Model B+ a Pi 2 will fit in there just fine due to the identical physical dimensions and mounting holes locations.

Rolls give you the option to keep printing onto a continuous strip of paper. This gives it an edge over a traditional printer as you can create printouts far longer than the average sheet of paper.

Once setup the tutorials run you through various example scripts which show you how to print :

  • Text
  • Banners
  • QR codes
  • Labels

The Official Pipsta website now contains an impressive amount of videos, tutorials and frequently asked questions so it’s worth a look if you want more details.

Their BitBucket repository contains the example Python scripts that are downloaded to the Pi during the setup process. These allow you to get printing within a few minutes.

Pipsta takes 36mm diameter x 57.5mm wide thermal paper rolls. These are cheap and easy to obtain as they are used in cash registers and chip-n-pin machines. Being a thermal printer there is no ink to worry about which is a relief if you’ve ever had to buy inkjet cartridges with your hard earned cash!

The linerless label rolls are interesting. They look like the normal rolls but have a tacky layer on one side. This means you can stick the paper to a flat surface a bit like a post-it note.

The button on the printer allows you to feed the paper or print a test sequence.

This video shows the printer and Pi Model B+ mounted in its perspex case :

Here is a Vine video showing my printer in action :

Once the examples were installed it was easy to start customising them and I intend to write a few more articles as I create new scripts for my printer.

I’m sure people will wonder if there are other alternative printers available, and I’m sure there are, but a supported product is much nicer to work with. The documentation and software resources are very good and this means you can get a printer integrated into your Pi inventions with a minimum of fuss.

Given the number of LED and screen based add-ons for the Pi it’s nice to see something in a previously neglected area. The Pi eco-system gets better every day!

Able Systems are offering to donate 10% of the profit of every Pipsta sold in 2015 to the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Pipsta is currently available from ModMyPi.

A history of Raspberry Pi in LEGO

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There is a significant chance that this is the very best thing on the internet. Richard Hayler and his two boys have built a massive LEGO diorama tracking the history of the Raspberry Pi, from concept to Astro Pi’s visit to the ISS.

The level of detail’s amazing. Here’s a group of mad scientists inventing the Pi:

And here’s a primary school with its own Raspberry Pi setup, some deliveries going on in the background.

Here, for some reason, are a PIrate, MOnkey, RObot and NInja hiding in some bushes.

And here’s a lady in a pith helmet.

There are loads more pictures and much more explanation over at Richard’s website: click here, or on any of the pictures to marvel at the enormous detail Richard and the boys have gone into. Bonus points if you can work out what the hotdog guy is all about. (I couldn’t, and I work here.)

The Raspberry Pi Guy interviews Eben and Gordon

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On Monday, Matt Timmons-Brown, The Raspberry Pi Guy, took a day out from revising for his GCSEs to come and do some video interviews with Eben and Gordon. We really enjoy working with Matt; he asks difficult questions, and I think that many of you will find this interview particularly interesting, as Eben talks about plans for open-sourcing the Pi’s graphics stack, what’s going on with the display board, what’s up with Windows 10, and much more.

Thanks Matt – come back to Pi Towers when your exams are over! (Next time, we want more Gordon!)

Five million sold!

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Yesterday we received some figures which confirmed something we’ve suspected for a few weeks now: we’ve sold over five million Raspberry Pis.

The Pi has gone from absolutely nothing just under three years ago, to becoming the fastest-selling British computer. (We still have Sir Alan Sugar to beat on total sales numbers – if you include the PCW word processor in the figures, Amstrad sold 8 million computers between 1984 and 1997.)

We roll this picture out every time we have a sales update: this is the first batch of Raspberry Pis we ever had made, around this time three years ago. There are 2000 original Raspberry Pis in this pallet. That’s 0.04% of all the Raspberry Pis that are currently out there. (Every individual Pi in this pallet now has 2500 siblings.)

There were so few Pis in this first production run that Eben and I were able to stick them in our car and drive them to RS and Farnell’s headquarters.

Three years ago today, I was sitting at my kitchen table stuffing stickers into envelopes (we were selling them for a pound a throw to raise the money we needed to kick off the original round of manufacture). Today, I’m sitting in an office with nineteen other people, and if I’m quite honest, we’re not quite sure how we got so far so fast. It definitely feels good, though.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charity. That means that we personally don’t make a profit from the Pi – all profits go straight back into our educational mission and into R&D. Your five million purchases mean that we’re able to train teachers for free; provide free educational resources; undertake educational outreach; fund open-source projects like XBMC (now Kodi), PyPy, Libav, Pixman, Wayland/Weston, Squeak, Scratch, Webkit and KiCad; and – for me, most importantly – we fund this sort of thing (and much more; you’ll hear more about projects we’ve sponsored with our education fund over the coming year, as they get written up by their owners).

Thank you. The Raspberry Pi community is a wonderful thing, and we’d be absolutely nowhere without you all.

Portrait of an Inventor

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Just before the launch of Raspberry Pi 2, RS Components, one of our two main manufacturing/distribution partners, sent a film crew to point some cameras at Eben for the day to talk about the history of Pi, about the new device, and about what we do. (He had a cold, which is why he sounds like Darth Vader.) This is the resulting video – we hope you like it!

Astro Pi: Mission Update 1

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I’m sure a few of you are wondering why we’re not screaming about this from the rooftops, right? Okay: stand back, here we go.

To quote the Portal space core: “SPAAAAAAAAAAACE!!!!!

Back in March 2014 Eben sent a casual email around the office asking if anyone wanted to join him at a meeting between the Surrey Space Centre, Airbus Defence and Space and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL). So, being a space geek, I tagged along and we found ourselves talking about the possibility of using a Raspberry Pi in space flight for a variety of applications.

There was excitement over the possibility of flying several compute modules on a cube-sat for a space software lab experiment, and Stuart Eves, who is the lead mission concepts engineer at Airbus Defence and Space, was especially enthusiastic about using Raspberry Pi as a mechanism for educational outreach by UK Space (a trade association of companies that contribute to the UK space industry).

A month or so later, another meeting was on the cards, and this time the UK Space Agency (UKSA, an executive agency of the British Government) was going to be there.

That’s when I met Libby Jackson and Jeremy Curtis. Libby and Jeremy were behind the Great British Space Dinner competition you may remember from last year, and, between them have years of experience in human space flight. Doing something with British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s six month ISS mission was on the table, but we were not sure how it was going to look.

It was clear to everyone that the existing popularity of Raspberry Pi, the connection with computer science education, and the forthcoming changes to the UK curriculum would cast a wide net over the UK; and together could generate a lot of participation in a potential coding competition. We realised that a situation where UK schools could own the same computer hardware that was in space had never, as far as we knew, existed before.

Doug Liddle, head of science at SSTL, told me that the possibility to achieve this was more exciting than anything else the UK Space trade association had been considering for Tim Peake’s flight. So over the course of several further meetings we put together an outreach plan that would provide a range of computer science challenges to cover the diverse needs of the space industry. At the core of these would be a Raspberry Pi with a range of peripherals and sensors which would act as the platform for the pupils to send their software into space.

Libby and Jeremy took the plan to the European Space Agency (ESA) for approval, and it was well received. To very briefly summarise: the programme would be split into two halves, with some activities that Tim would do up on the ISS during his mission and a competition run on the ground before blast-off.

At this point we still hadn’t decided a name for it and I think it might amuse you to see the names that we were considering:

  • Pi in the Sky
  • Astronaut Pi
  • Astro Pi
  • Cosmic Pi
  • Fly Pi
  • Space Pi
  • Chris HATfield
  • Astronaut HAT
  • Orbital Pi
  • Peake Pi
  • Raspberry Peake

As the year went on, we were well into discussions about what the hardware would be like. It was agreed that it would be a B+ HAT that could be mass produced and made widely available to schools and the general public. The same HAT would then be flown, along with Tim’s Raspberry Pi, to the ISS, thus creating the situation where all school pupils have exactly the same computer hardware as the astronauts are working with in space. They would be able to write code against their own Pi, and that could then be sent to the ISS and run on Tim’s Pi!

If you win the Astro Pi competition this is exactly what will happen to your code.

We didn’t want the Astro Pi HAT to have any single purpose, but rather to be a toolkit that could be employed in many different ways. Initially the list of sensors we wanted to have on it was enormous, and this had to be trimmed down due to the physical space constraints of the HAT standard. The sensors that made the cut were chosen for their ability to provide learning opportunities in the context of space flight. The solar arrays on the ISS, for instance, each have about 12 gyroscopes to control their orientation so that they can track the sun. Accelerometers are used to measure forces exerted by thrusters on all space craft, and magnetometers work like a compass so you can know which way you’re facing in relation to the Earth’s magnetic field.

We also knew that we wouldn’t be able to plug the Astro Pi into anything like a monitor or keyboard, and that it would have to run headless. Having some kind of visual output, despite this constraint, would be important: so this is why we included the 8×8 matrix of LEDs. Use it wisely!

So all that was the easy part. Meanwhile we began the process of getting the hardware approved for space flight with ESA. Space conditions are challenging, and because of this there is an abundance of testing that must be done for any object going up to the ISS. What you need to possess, to be allowed up there, is a flight safety certificate. The process to obtain this for Astro Pi is still ongoing as I write this blog entry.

There two kinds of payloads (space cargo consignments): they’re called “educational” payloads and “real” payloads. Educational payloads are usually inanimate objects, like balls which are sent up to collide together in zero gravity to demonstrate the conservation of momentum effect or similar. Real payloads are things like the complex machines that are designed to perform a job on the station, or robotic arms that can be controlled by an astronaut. The thing that differentiates the two is the simple question: does it plug in and turn on?

So we found ourselves in the unique situation of being an educational payload that has to consume power from the ISS mains. This meant that our path through the safety approval process was not going to be trivial. Fortunately we have some of the best people in the UK Space industry on our side, who are actively working towards making this happen. ESA have also hooked us up with engineers and safety experts, who are helping guide us through their processes too. It’s been an absolute pleasure and a privilege to work with these folks.

Here is a list of some of the tests we have to do:

  • Flammability assessment
  • Off-gassing assessment
  • Electromagnetic interference / susceptibility assessment (the CE and FCC ones don’t count in space)
  • Electrical interface testing (to prove we can consume power from the ISS safely)
  • Vacuum exposure assessment
  • Sharp edges hazard assessment (so we don’t accidentally poke holes in any astronauts)
  • Launch conditions vibration test (to make sure the Astro Pi still works afterwards)

We plan to shout about each of these on social media in the coming months, as they happen, so stay tuned! Once we have the flight safety certificate we can be scheduled for a launch. This was originally planned to be an ATV or Space X Dragon capsule, however it now looks more like we’re going up on the Soyuz rocket with Tim Peake himself. I can’t believe I just typed that.

I had opportunity to meet Tim at the Farnborough Air Show last year too. He was there doing the closing ceremony of Mission X with the UK Space Agency, but was able to spare an hour of his time to attend one of the UK Space progress meetings. We gave him a general Raspberry Pi demonstration and talked a bit about the competition and what he would be required to do. He was really enthusiastic and said he wanted to make it as interactive as possible, even suggesting the possibility of a live debugging session with the competition winners.

Imagine randomly getting a phone call from the ISS: “Hello this is Tim Peake on the International Space Station, I’ve just found an error on line 21 of your code. Does it work properly on yours?”

I don’t know if that will happen, but it might!

Aside from the flight safety procedures, a lot of mission specific documentation needs to be produced too. You may not know this, but a lot of the European crew operations on orbit are controlled from a little house in Lucerne, Switzerland. Libby Jackson and I paid them a visit in December last year to give them an orientation on the hardware. They’re a division of Lucerne University called BIOTESC, and they write all of the step-by-step procedures that the crew follows during day to day operations. Understandably they all have very good personal and professional relationships with the crew members.

They’re a lovely bunch of people who are going to become super-competent in the use and maintenance of a Raspberry Pi. They’ll be required to advise Tim should anything not work as intended up there. We had one of the Astro Pi prototype units with us and went through a few mock procedures that Tim would be expected to do. Libby took the opportunity to dust off her coding skills and spent about an hour programming a nice countdown sequence on the LED matrix which she blogged about here.

Back in the UK, the Astro Pi media drive was beginning to roll into action. Many people from UK Space trade association were working behind the scenes to get the website ready, setting up interviews and organising press conferences. The announcement was scheduled for 10 December at the CGI offices in Kings Cross, London. Press were invited and we had a number of school students from Weydon School in Surrey join for a Raspberry Pi workshop during the conference. The full report from that day can be found online here. The BBC were involved too and technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones caught up with Tim and interviewed him about Astro Pi.

Meanwhile, our artist and animator, Sam Alder, who had already designed the Astro Pi logo, was busily working on story-boarding and producing a cartoon about the competition. We were fortunate to be allowed to record Tim Peake’s voice for it. Sam and his colleague from Saladhouse Studios, Scott Lockhart, met up with Tim to do the recording at a hotel in London. He told me that they sat down, started looking through their notes, and looked up at Tim in his ESA polo shirt and whispered: “I can’t believe this! What the hell are we doing here?”

The final cut of the cartoon was kept under wraps with the intention to show it during the competition launch at BETT 2015 for the first time.

Head to the @bett_show arena now to hear all about @astro_pi! @Raspberry_Pi @spacegovuk pic.twitter.com/PqlRtyVgFd

— Astro Pi (@astro_pi) January 23, 2015

We had planned to do a live link interview with Tim, who would be in the United States, during the BETT arena presentation. Sadly this fell through because he was travelling on that Friday. So instead we organised a Skype call the night before, and I was the lucky one who got to interview him!

It was recorded on my computer at home. This was my own “What the hell are we doing here?” moment; I was a bit like a starstruck rabbit caught in the headlights for the whole interview.

So the next day Lance Howarth from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Jeremy Curtis from the UK Space Agency and Doug Liddle from Surrey Satellite Technology gave an exciting presentation to a crowded BETT arena. Here is the Skype interview:

The cartoon animation was then shown to round off the presentation. This is by far my favourite of all the animations Saladhouse have done for us.

So that just about brings us up to date. ESA have told us that Astro Pi is the most advanced educational payload that they’ve seen, and that they’re watching what happens here with interest. If we have a high degree of participation in the competition then ESA may decide to repeat the whole process for the rest of Europe with another astronaut. So please do your bit and tell everyone you know! We want every school in the UK to participate!

We’re working hard to get the Astro Pi HAT manufactured in volume and we’re hoping for them to be available by the middle of March. But don’t forget that you can win them too! Secondary school sign up is now live so head over to astro-pi.org and read more about the competition rules.

Primary Schools enter here.

Secondary Schools enter here.

Thanks for reading this far; I know this is a long post. One final thought I’d like to leave you all with is regarding an awesome tradition of the Russian space program that is still observed on all Soyuz launches to this day. The Russian commander is responsible for choosing a talisman that hangs inside the capsule. It’s a visual indicator of when the spacecraft has reached weightlessness and dates right back to Yuri Gagarin (the first person in space).

The talisman is usually some kind of stuffed toy, and if you watch the most recent launch video below, where Italian ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti went up, you’ll see they used Olaf from Frozen! Watch for the main engine cut off at 09:15 for when he shoots forwards and becomes weightless.

Can anyone think of a stuffed toy that might be appropriate for Tim’s launch?

The results are in for the Sonic Pi Competition!

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To celebrate the launch of Sonic Pi 2 we held the inaugural Sonic Pi competition. We were looking for some of the best space-themed music, coded with Sonic Pi v2.0 on a Raspberry Pi by school children in the UK aged between 7 – 16 years – and we were not disappointed.

After a month of judging, Dr Sam Aaron, creator of Sonic Pi, and the Foundation gang have whittled all the entries down to just ten finalists. We will be announcing the overall competition winner at the Raspberry Pi birthday celebrations at the end of February.

Here is Sam’s thoughts on the competition:

Greetings Live Coders! Let’s gather round to discuss the results of the Sonic Pi competition. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to talking about for a long time. You see, I wrote Sonic Pi to give people the tools to make music they otherwise may never have made. It may sound crazy, but had a dream that once Sonic Pi was in the hands of others, especially children, music I couldn’t even dream about would be created using it. If you look back into the history of music you’ll see an interesting pattern – time and time again new genres of music explode out of people fearlessly experimenting with new technology. It was therefore a wonderful experience for me to listen to every one of the entries and repeatedly hear a fearless experimentation with code as a new technology for music. Thank-you!

This year’s competition was all about space, and it was fantastic to hear such a broad range of interpretations of the theme. Through the music, I was taken on a range of exciting journeys – drifting through galaxies, exploring the moon, escaping space battles and hearing sounds which can only be explained as alien.

Another aspect of the competition was the structure and readability of the code. Again, I was amazed by how much of Sonic Pi’s functionality was being used across all age ranges. Some people think it’s crazy to teach threads at school level, but these compositions show how not only has the concept been understood, but used in interesting ways. It was lovely to see so many of the entries display a real care for how the code was laid out and organised. Many were at a the standard of a professional programmer!

Of course, every competition needs winners, and we’ll get to those in a moment. However, before we do, I’d like to express my deepest thanks for everyone that entered. Each one of your entries made me smile. Thank-you so much, and please keep on coding!

Sam

Drum roll please…

Here are our 10 finalists (including cover art, audio, description and code)! If you would rather listen to the compositions then we’ve created this soundcloud album. Enjoy!

The MagPi – Issue 30 out now, and a Kickstarter for Volume 3 in print!

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Created by the community, for the community, The MagPi magazine is the world’s first and only free, regular magazine about Raspberry Pi. It has been published online almost every month since May 2012, and every issue is packed full of hardware and software projects and tutorials for all skill levels. Now there’s a Kickstarter campaign to bring Volume 3 of the magazine into print.

Draft of the design for the Volume 3 binder cover

Volume 3 comprises all ten issues published in 2014 (issues 20-29): that’s 468 full colour pages! They’ll come in a lovely smart binder, with a spine designed to match the Volume 1 and 2 binders so that they look neat beside one another on your shelves (we care about this kind of thing at Pi Towers, and we’re quite sure that MagPi readers feel no less strongly).

And that’s not the end of this week’s MagPi goodness: Issue 30 is out now.

It features electronic ping pong using the Pi’s GPIO and LEDs, an account of using Raspberry Pi to enhance navigation data on marine voyages, an air hockey arcade game in Scratch, an introduction to C#, Raspberry Pi 2 (of course!) and plenty more. Download your pdf copy now!

Pi GPIO Hardware Interfaces Update Feb 2015

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The Pi has always supported 1-wire, I2C and SPI interfaces via the GPIO header. These allow various devices to be connected to the Pi and controlled via software. In the recent update to Raspbian some major changes were introduced which changed the way these interfaces are enabled.

The exact details of the change are discussed in the “I2C, SPI, I2S, LIRC, PPS, stopped working? Read this.” forum post over at the official site.

A number of my tutorials used these interfaces and the changes rendered them out of date. Luckily I still had the breadboards I used to develop most of these so I decided to update my posts while testing against a Pi Model B+ and Pi 2 Model B.

1-wire Interface

This interface is useful for connecting DS18B20 temperature sensors. Enabling it requires a minor edit to the “/boot/config.txt” file and two modprobe commands.

Here are the posts that refer to the 1-wire interface :

I2C Interface

Enabling I2C requires an edit to the “/boot/config.txt” file (or use raspi-config to do it for you) as well as an edit to the “/etc/modules” file.

Here are the posts that refer to the I2C interface :

SPI Interface

Enabling SPI just requires an edit to the “/boot/config.txt” file (or use raspi-config to do it for you).

Here are the posts that refer to the SPI interface :

Still To Do

When I get the chance I will be taking a look at the PiFace Control and Display board to check it still works ok :

I also need to test other basic GPIO circuits and run though all the above guides using a standard Model B.

Prepare for Pi Day!

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With the date formatting used in the United States, 3/14 is considered Pi Day, so it’s a great excuse to get Raspberry Pi enthusiasts together to share what they do. Not only are we officially participating in Pi Day at SXSW in Austin, but we’d like to support and promote any kind of jams, bake-offs, user groups, showcases, or workshops that are taking place on March 14th throughout the United States.

There are a few events that are already confirmed and I’ll highlight them below. If you’re organizing a Raspberry Pi-focused Pi Day event that you’d like us to promote, please click here to submit your event information. We’ll do another blog post leading up to Pi Day — ahem — rounding up all the events happening across the country so that Raspberry Pi fans can find one near them.

Austin, TX

Members of the Raspberry Pi team (including Eben, Liz, Rachel, and yours truly) will have a stand at SX Create, which is part of the SXSW Interactive festival. We’ll have a few demos and hands on activities that we’re excited to share. We’ll also be surrounded by companies, products, and organizations all related to hacking and tinkering with technology. Even though we’re especially excited about Pi Day, we’ll be there for all of SX Create, which runs from March 13 to 15 and is free and open-to-the-public.

Bay Area, CA

Our friends at the absolutely fantastic Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA are planning a big Pi Day bash and they’re looking for Raspberry Pi projects to showcase. Here’s what they have to say about it:

We will be hosting a Raspberry Pi Maker Showcase from 3pm to 6pm. We are seeking out innovators who are interested in exhibiting their work and sharing their Pi creations with the community. If you are interested in exhibiting at the showcase, please sign up here.

Little Rock, AR

In Arkansas, a third annual bake-off will take place on March 14th at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. Organizers David J. Hinson and Tony Bates of Arkansas Geek Central had this to say:

Students, makers, and creatives are invited to bring their Raspberry Pi creations to compete for prizes, prestige, and ­ most importantly ­ bragging rights! In addition to the project competition, workshops and labs will be held for people just getting started with the Raspberry Pi, and for those interested in learning how to get the most out of their Raspberry Pi creations.

Visit their site for more information about this Pi Day event.

Your Event Here

If you’re planning a Pi Day event, let us know about it so that we can tell the rest of the Raspberry Pi community where they can find you. And if you’re excited about the prospect of bootstrapping your own Pi Day event, it’s not too late to start planning.

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