Englisch

Exploring computing education in rural schools in India

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Earlier this year, the Raspberry Pi Foundation supported a University of Cambridge team of two researchers, Dr Maximilian Bock and Aftab Jalia, in a pilot project exploring the possibilities of providing computing access and education in rural schools in India. Working with local organisations and using an adaptable three-day programme, they led two workshops in June 2014 introducing students and teachers to computing with the Raspberry Pi. The workshops used specially designed electronics kits, including Raspberry Pis and peripherals, that were handed over to the partner organisations.

The first workshop took place at Karigarshala Artisan School, run by Hunnarshala Foundation in Bhuj, Gujarat; the attendees were a group of 15-to-19-year old students who had left conventional education, as well as three local instructors. The students started off with very little experience with computers and most had never typed on a keyboard, so a session introducing the keyboard was included, followed by sessions on programming, using the Raspberry Pi camera module and working with electronics.

Karigarshala students mastering hardware control of an LED via the Raspberry Pi GPIO

Students chose to spend their evenings revisiting what they had learned during the day, and by the end of the course all the students could write programs to draw shapes, create digital documents, connect electronic circuits, and control components such as LEDs using the Raspberry Pi.

Chamoli students practise on their own using a TV as a monitor

The second workshop welcomed six- to twelve-year-old pupils of the Langasu Primary School in the remote Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, along with three of their teachers. This younger group of students followed a programme with more focus on activities featuring immediate feedback — for example, Sonic Pi for live-coding music — alongside programming and electronics tasks. As they learned, students soon began teaching other students.

In an Ideas Competition held at the end of the workshop, entries reflected students’ engagement with the Raspberry Pi as a device with which to build solutions: an inverter system to deal with frequent power outages, a weather station that gives warnings, a robot to assist with menial chores.

The Cambridge team’s “Frugal Engineering” approach, delivering computing education without the need for elaborate infrastructure, proved very successful in both schools. Hunnarshala Foundation has decided to integrate the Raspberry Pi into its vocational training curriculum, while students at Langasu Primary School will not only carry on learning with Raspberry Pis at school but will be able to borrow self-contained Raspberry Pi Loan Kits to use at home. The Cambridge team remains in touch with the schools and continues to provide off-site support.

September 2014 and February 2015 will see the team build on this successful pilot with induction workshops in three new schools, as well as follow-up visits to evaluate the use of Raspberry Pi in past project sites and to provide support and resources for expanding the programmes.

YRS Festival of Code 2014 – around the UK and at Pi Towers

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Young Rewired State is a network of coders around the world. Every year an event is held in the UK to give young people the opportunity to collaborative while working on a project to make something interesting with open data, and to learn skills while exposed to new technologies.

The Festival of Code is a week where volunteer-led centres around the country play host to local kids (18 and under) who work in teams, guided by mentors from industry, to create a software application, a web app, a game, a phone app or even a hardware hack that utilises an open data set to provide a solution to a real world problem. It takes place next week: 28 July – 3 August 2014.

Participants spend most of the week at their local centre where they’re introduced to each other and to the mentors, they’re shown some data sets they have available, they get in to teams and start working on their project. Throughout the week they are introduced to new technologies and given short talks from mentors and other volunteers to help them find the right tech to solve their problems. On Friday all centres travel to Plymouth for the weekend where they present their projects.

Last year the overall winners of the Festival of Code were Tom Hartley and Louis Brent-Carpenter, whose hack was a service to provide navigational and other information to cyclists using a series of handlebar-mounted LEDs – powered by a Raspberry Pi – known as PiCycle.

Alongside Best in show there are other categories: Best example of codeBest example of design, Code a better country, and the Should exist award. I’d just like to point out that the winners of last year’s Best example of code were mentored by me in Manchester: contag.io.

Here’s a video showing my centre’s experience:

Come join us for the best week of your summer! Meet up at local centres, be mentored, introduced to open data, build awesome games, apps, hardware and websites, and show off your hack at the weekend in Plymouth!

from the Festival of Code poster – download from festivalofco.de

If you’re 18 or under and want to participate, sign up at festivalofco.de now. We’re running a centre at Pi Towers in Cambridge – so if you’re local to us you’ll be assigned to our centre and you’ll be lucky enough to spend a week at our offices!

If you’re over 18 (even quite a lot over 18) you can sign up as a mentor - centres can always use an extra pair of hands, and you’ll have a great time!

Oh, and Stephen Fry is a fan:

Calling all young geeks, your Festival awaits! Coding+Photobooths+Chiptunes+Skatepark+Ice cream festivalofco.de is here for you #YRS2014

— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) July 19, 2014

There are also YRS events in Berlin, New York CitySingapore and elsewhere!

Raspberry Pi Model B+ 3.5mm Audio/Video Jack

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The Model B+ features a new 3.5mm audio jack which also includes the composite video signal. This has allowed for the removal of the composite video socket found on the Model B.

The new jack is a 4-pole socket which carries both audio and video signals and is often found on other multimedia devices such as iPods, MP3 players and smartphones.

HDMI and 3.5mm Audio/Video Jack

This style of connector is sometimes referred to as “TRRS“, which stands for “Tip-Ring-Ring-Sleeve”.

Cables are readily available but they don’t all follow the same standard so you need to be careful before assuming it will work with your Pi.

The good news is that many will still work but you may need to swap the video cable for one of the audio channels. Cables where the ground connection is different are the ones that should be avoided.

Here is a table showing the configuration of various popular devices :

Device Sleeve Ring 2 Ring 1 Tip OK? 4 3 2 1 Model B+ Video Ground Right Left Apple Video Ground Right Left Zune Video Ground Right Left Camcorders Right Ground Video Left MP3 Players Ground Video Right Left

[Download Image]

As you can see from the table all the cables where the ground in on Ring 2 will work with the Pi although the camcorder style will require you swap your Video with the Right Audio plug.

RCA Audio and Video Plugs

Traditionally composite video uses the yellow coloured sockets whereas audio uses the Red (Right channel) and White (Left channel). Cables are available with both RCA plugs or RCA sockets on the end. Make sure you buy a cable with the appropriate connectors for your video and audio accessories.

If you’ve got a multimeter you can check where the ground is on your cable. Check the continuity between the rings on the cable’s 3.5mm plug and the outer metal shell on the coloured RCA plugs. If the shells are connected to “Ring 2″ as shown above your cable should be OK.

Art Showcase: Escape III

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Hey all! It’s Rachel again. I have another amazing Art Showcase for you. This time Neil Mendoza explains how he and Anthony Goh brought these animated bird sculptures to life with the help of a Raspberry Pi, some Arduinos and lots of old mobile phone parts.

I really love this one XD – read right to the bottom if you want to see the birds in action. Over to Neil…

Mobile phones are ubiquitous in today’s society, but often their use has unintended consequences, intruding into and changing social situations, distancing people in in real life by dragging them into the digital world.  They are also a massive source of electronic waste.  A few years ago this inspired Anthony Goh and me (Neil Mendoza) to create an installation that takes cast-off devices and suggests an alternate reality in which these unwanted phones and noises become something beautiful, giving them a new life by creating an experience that people can share together in person.  The Barbican recently asked commissioned us to create a new flock of birds for their awesome Digital Revolution exhibition.  Here’s a little tech breakdown of how they work.

In previous versions, the birds were independent, but this time we decided to have a Raspberry Pi at the heart of the installation controlling them all.  This gave us the most flexibility to animate them independently or choreographed them together.

The exhibition is travelling so we wanted the installation to be as easy to set up as possible to so we decided to make each bird talk to the Raspberry Pi over ethernet.  This means that communications are reliable over long distances and each bird is self-contained and only needs a power and data cable connected to it.

The next challenge to overcome was to figure out how to call a bird.  In previous incarnations, each bird included a functioning mobile phone that you could call.  However, as there is no reception in the gallery, we decided to include a different era of phone junk and make people call the birds with a rotary phone from the 1940s.  The system looks something like this…

To make the phone feel phoney, the receiver is connected to a serial mp3 player, controlled by an Arduino that plays the appropriate audio depending on the state of the installation, e.g. dialling tone, bird song etc.  The Arduino also reads numbers that from the rotary dial and if one of the birds’ numbers is dialled it sends it over ethernet to the Raspberry Pi.

The iBirdBrain app running on the Raspberry Pi is written in openFrameworks.  When iBirdBrain receives a number from the phone, it wakes the appropriate bird up and tells it to move randomly.  It then picks an animation created using James George’s ofxTimeline and plays it with some added randomness.  The current state of each part of the bird is sent every frame over ethernet as a three byte message:

Byte 1: Type, e.g. ‘s’ for servo

Byte 2: Data 1, e.g. servo index

Byte 3: Data 2, e.g. servo angle

So the status of the app could be seen quickly without needing to SSH into the Pi we decided to use a PiTFT screen.  To begin with we rendered the OpenGL output of the app to the PiTFT screen, however as the screen runs at 20 FPS this created an unnecessary bottleneck.  In the end, we decided to set the screen up so that it would render the console output from the openFrameworks app.  After that, the app ran at a solid 60 FPS.  Outputting a '\r' character to the console goes back to the beginning of the line, so I used this to create a constantly updating console output that didn’t scroll, e.g.:

cout << ‘\r’ << statusMessage;

The birds themselves each contain an Arduino.  They speak ethernet using an ENC28J60 ethernet module and this library.  To start with I used TCP but running a TCP stack along with all the other stuff we were asking the bird to do, proved a little too much for its little brain so we moved to using UDP as it requires less memory and processor cycles.  An ID for each bird was programmed into the EEPROM of the Arduino.  That way, there only needed to be one firmware for all the birds, the birds themselves would then set all of their data, IP address, peripherals etc based on their ID.

Each bird has multiple parts that are controlled by the Arduino, servos for the wings and heads, piezo sounders, Neopixels and a screen for the face.

Escape III is on display at Digital Revolution until 14th September at the Barbican in London – I’m so excited, I’m going next week!

If you can’t make it, you can see the birds here:

Raspberry Pi Model B+ First Impressions

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My Raspberry Pi Model B+ arrived from RS Components on Thursday so here are some thoughts on the revised Pi design, what I think of it, what has changed and how this impacts existing and new users. I also took a set of photos to highlight the differences.

Hopefully this post will answer lots of the frequently asked questions I’ve seen being asked by Pi fans on web forums and social media channels.

Here is the device in question :

CPU/GPU

The B+ uses the same SoC (system on a chip) as used in the Model A and B. This may be a disappointment to some people but changing it would have been a drastic move by the Foundation. The B+ is an evolution on the original concept and maintaining the same CPU/GPU combination ensures compatibility with current software. There are people who might say it “needs more power” but that depends on exactly what you think the Pi is for. For the Pi’s educational goals it is just fine as it is. There will be a more powerful Pi at some point but that isn’t likely for another a few years.

Power

The MicroUSB port has been moved from the left side of the PCB to the lower edge. This will help tidy up the cabling to the device as it now shares the same side of the board with the HDMI and Audio ports. The power regulator has been redesigned and helps lower the power consumption. The infamous silver ‘C6′ capacitor has been removed.

USB Ports

There are now four USB ports. This is great news for lots of users as it means you can plug in a mouse, keyboard and WiFi dongle without the need for a hub. This means a cheaper setup with less cables for some owners.

The downside is the extra USB stack changes the physical shape of the Pi. This impacts some addon boards which extended to that side of the board. In my tests those boards usually still work but they don’t lay quite as flat as they did before.

GPIO Header

The GPIO header now has 40 pins. The first 26 are exactly the same as the Model B so addon boards using those pins should work just fine. 26-way ribbon cables may not fit as the connector ends are wider than the pin spacing. The extra 14 pins provide 3 ground pins and 9 GPIO pins.

That’s now a total of 26 pins that can be configured as inputs and outputs. Good news for hardware hackers!

P5 Header

The P5 header was introduced on the Revision 2 boards. It has now been removed. Many users may not have even noticed it was there but a number of addon boards made use of it. Those boards will not work on the B+ as a result. Take a look at my addon compatibility list for examples.

SD Card Slot

It never happened to me but plenty of people seemed to break their SD card slot. The plastic push-fit slot has been replaced with a metal MicroSD push-click slot. This is smaller, neater and hopefully more robust. It’s a bit of a shame for me as I had recently increased my collection of standard sized SD cards, but going forward this is a worthwhile update.

Audio/Video

The composite video port has been removed but the video signal is still available in an upgraded 4-pole 3.5mm jack which also carries left and right audio as before. The 4-pole jacks are popular on other media devices such as camcorders so some users may already have cables which they can use straight away. This may come as an annoyance to users happily using normal composite leads but the 4-pole cables are cheap and easy to obtain.

In addition the audio circuitry has been improved so overall audio quality should be better.

Ethernet Port

The Ethernet port now has two LEDs indicating network activity. Previously these network activity indicators were on the opposite corner of the PCB with the red power LED.

Mounting Holes

The B+ now has four mounting holes in a more logical layout. This is much better for those who want to mount the Pi on a solid base or inside an enclosure.

Some addon boards used one of the two mounting holes to attach a plastic pillar to support their PCB. This hole is no longer present so those mounting pillars will not work as before.

Price

The price is the same as the Model B. What? You wanted it cheaper! For new users the Pi experience probably will be cheaper as they can do more without needing a separate USB hub.

Cases and Enclosures

Due to the physical layout changes the B+ will need redesigned cases and some addons may not fit. I don’t mind too much as I would have needed to buy a new case for a new Pi anyway. It doesn’t matter if it is a new design. Retailers have been quick to release new cases at sensible prices so there is no big wait unlike some of the larger tech companies out there.

Compatibility

In general the B+ should be compatible with lots of the existing Pi infrastructure. Tutorials, guides, scripts, addons etc. This is an extremely important situation to be in if for those who have created resources, book and teaching materials.  If you are in any doubt about this ask on the Official Raspberry Pi Forums. Someone will almost certainly be able to help out.

Update Your OS

The B+ has a new Ethernet/USB chip. In order to make sure your existing Model B SD cards work (assuming they are MicroSD cards!) you must update them using ‘sudo apt-get update’ and ‘sudo apt-get upgrade’ so that you pick up the latest kernel that includes support for this chip. Once you’ve done this, or are using an SD image released after June 2014, you are ready for action.

My 5 Big Advantages

For my usage these 5 advantages out-weigh any other issues :

  • More USB ports
  • More GPIO pins
  • More mounting holes
  • Lower power consumption
  • Higher quality SD card slot
Model A+?

Eben Upton has indicated there will be a Model A+. I’m guessing but this will probably make use of the revised layout and include all the above changes except it will have only 1 USB port and no Ethernet port.

Final Thoughts

I think the Model B+ is great. It offers a number of improvements while maintaining software compatibility with existing SD card images and scripts. Users with addon boards that don’t work with the B+ will still be able to use them on the Raspberry Pi they originally bought them for. The cases I own can be used for my existing Model Bs and I’ll just have to buy a few new cases for the Model B+.

Depending on your circumstances you might find any one of the above changes undesirable … but the changes are genuine improvements. New users are in a better position and the existing users may have to make a few changes.

If you recently bought a Model B and feel annoyed don’t be. The Model B is still a great device and there are 3,000,000 of them out there. That guarantees you plenty of use out of it. For many projects the bonus features of the B+ aren’t really required.

The Foundation are now focusing their efforts on software optimisations so the Pi family is going to get better and better. Not many $35 electrical products can claim to do that.

Here are some photos I took of my Model B+ :

 

Solar-powered Raspberry Pi school

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I heard about plans for a new Indiegogo fundraiser last week. It launches today, and it really deserves your attention. (And, dare I say it, some of your money.)

Seventy-seven percent of schools in South Africa don’t have any computers – and 40% don’t even have access to electricity. United Twenty-13, a South African non-profit organisation, is looking to bootstrap a new model of solar-powered school computer lab, with the intent of scaling and reproducing the lab all over South Africa.

Taskeen Adam, one of the founders, says: “The fact that you are reading this online means that you already have more computer knowledge than the average South African public school student.” It’s a situation she and her colleagues at United Twenty-13 are making serious efforts to change, with the help of a certain small, affordable, low-power computer.

They’ve already raised sufficient funds for the lab design, for teacher training and for a prefabricated building to house it all in. But they’re looking for additional money to buy hardware (all the software they’re using is open source) – not just the Raspberry Pis and accompanying peripherals, but the expensive solar panels too.

Projects like this, democratising access to computing and access to information, are key in making improvements to local and national economies; and they’re key in empowering and changing the lives of the young people who are exposed to them. We wish the Solar Powered Raspberry Pi School project all the success in the world – you can donate to the project at their Indiegogo.

Raspberry Pi Model B+ And Addon Board Compatibility

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Changes to the layout and connectors on the Raspberry Pi B+ may leave you wondering about the range of existing add-ons out there and whether they still work. Below you’ll find a table listing the add-on boards I either own or have seen other people using. The table lists the board and whether it works with the standard Model B and the Model B+.

Hopefully this will of interest to the owners of the existing 3 million Raspberry Pis out there. It will also help people continue to buy add-on boards without worrying that won’t work with their B+.

A green tick means it attaches and works as expected. A red cross means it either doesn’t physically fit or won’t work due to other changes. An orange triangle means that it is possible to use the board but it may not fit perfectly.

Add-on Board Model B Model B+ Notes BerryClip LED Plugs onto first 26 pins as expected BerryClip+ LED Plugs onto first 26 pins as expected Gertduino Extended header lifts this board out of trouble MyPiFi LED Plugs onto first 26 pins as expected Pi Co-op Plugs onto first 26 pins as expected PiFace Control & Display PCB edge raised a few mm as it clashes with USB ports but still works. PiLite LED Matrix PCB edge raised a few mm as it clashes with USB ports but still works. RasPiO – Pro breakout Sits on first 26 pins as expected RyanTeck Motor Controller Plugs onto first 26 pins as expected Wolfson Audio Requires the P5 connector which is not present on the B+ Full Size Add-on Boards

Items marked with a triangle ( ) are usually boards that extend all the way to the far edge (eg PiLite) and clash with the raised USB sockets. Most of these boards will still connect to the GPIO but will have the edge raised by a few millimetres. It may be possible to use an extended 26-way GPIO header to lift the board clear of the USB sockets.

Multiple Headers

With a 26-way header on the GPIO pins it is physically possible to attach another header or jumper cables to the remaining 14-way pins. However be aware that most 26-pin add-on boards overshot the next couple of pins on the 40-pin header. You will need to consider this before assuming you can plug multiple connectors onto the larger GPIO header of the B+. Hopefully the creators of add-on boards will make this clear in their documentation.

Page Updates

I will strive to update this page as additional information is available. Contact me if you’ve got any suggestions.

Raspberry Pi B+ GPIO Header Details And Pinout

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One of the most significant changes to the Raspberry Pi Model B+ is the 40-pin header (J8). This offers and increase of 14 pins over the 26-pin header on the original Raspberry Pi.

This page aims to provide a set of information that should prove useful to anyone interfacing to these pins in their projects. It also includes a link to a printable PDF worksheet that is useful for making notes as you connect items to your header.

Diagram

Here is a diagram showing all 40-pins :

 

Additional GPIO

The B+ offers 9 extra GPIO pins which can be configured as inputs of outputs. This brings the total number to 26 (17+9).

Ground Pins

The extended header offers an additional 3 ground pins. So that’s a total of 8.

Worksheet

Referring to information on a webpage is great but when you are hardware interfacing it is still useful to be able to scribble on a piece of paper. I’ve created a printable Model B GPIO worksheet so that you can draw and write on the diagram as you build your projects.

It makes it much easier to remember what wires, sensors and components you’ve got connected to each pin.

 

Ben’s Raspberry Pi US Tour – August 2014

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Ben here: I’m on the education team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation in Cambridge, UK. As part of our outreach work I’m visiting the USA next month, where I could be visiting your school or hackspace.

Calling all Pi-thusiasts! I’m visiting in August and if you’d like me to visit your hackspace, speak at your school or check out your community learning space, let me know and I’ll try to fit as many visits in to my trip as possible! Whether your group wants to find out how to get started with Raspberry Pi; or whether you’re seasoned Pi hackers, I’m looking forward to meeting you.

I’ll be arriving in New York City on 4th August and travelling from there to Salt Lake City, visiting as many places as possible on the way in under three weeks. I depart on 21st August.

Are you on my way? Get in touch and I’ll try to visit you

I’ve set up a form where you can submit your request for a visit. Many US teachers have been asking us for a taste of the sort of things we do at Picademy, for example: now’s your chance. If you’re close to the blue line in the map above, submit the location of your suggested stop and I’ll get in touch if I can fit you into my trip. (If you’re not close to the blue line, get in touch anyway, and I’ll see what I can do.)

I’m very conscious that I might have used words in this post or elsewhere which I know to be spelled incorrectly differently in U.S. English. I apologise.

Picademy 3. A report of some note: and how you can be at Picademy 4

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On Monday and Tuesday this week we ran our third Picademy–two days of free teacher training (aka CPD – it really is free, and there aren’t any catches) - and it was better than ever.

I told you it was fun! Picademy 3 cohort July 2014

We make Picademy available to attend for free: it’s part of our charitable mission. Teachers of all subjects – not just computing – who want to incorporate computing and electronics into their classroom, are given two days of what we think is some of the best CPD in the world. But don’t take our word for it – if you’re interested in applying for a place on the September course (you should), here’s what the Picademy 3 cohort had to say via Twitter:

  • Best two days of work based stuff EVER! Cannot recommend Picademy enough.

  • Picademy was amazing, superb CPD, networking, hands on projects, expert support when needed.

  • Thank you … for the best CPD, hospitality and the wonderful things we learnt.

  • Best goody bag ever! I feel like I’ve been to a party. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s session! I am buzzing from Picademy! Thank you to everyone for making it such an awesome experience.

  • Thanks … for an excellent #picademy. Great networking and workshops! Very inspiring!

  • I particularly liked the bit where Clive scooted around in a Little Tikes car shouting ‘Hodor!’ to himself.

All of these are completely not made up. Except one.

Lucky bags

Lots of the attendees arrived the night before and stayed in the same hotel, and it’s great to see the social side of Picademy. As well as encouraging collaboration and team work over the two days, it helps maintain the community and network of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators afterwards.

No night out would be complete without Sonic Pi leaflets

There’s always a great buzz in the Pi Towers classroom when the group first arrives and opens up their goody bags. (These bags have been certified by independent adjudicators Bag of Tricks Inc to be the best goody bags in the whole world.) But this time we had an ace up our sleeve (and B in our bonnet). Late on the previous Friday, Eben issued the command to replace the Raspberry Pi model Bs in the bags  with the as yet unreleased B+. There was much rejoicing! And this is why, one hour after the new model was announced, the good people of Picademy 3 were some of the first in the world to own and use the new model.

Lots of projects used the ever useful camera board

Day 1: filling brains with the good stuff

The first day is all about gaining experience and confidence. Workshops on Sonic Pi; physical computing; programming in Minecraft; and the Pi camera board show what can be achieved if you’re willing to have a go and to think differently, and this cohort did not disappoint. I overheard lots of comments like, “This would be perfect in the classroom…”, “The kids will love this…” and “YES! IT WORKS!” It’s an intensive but satisfying day. Teachers who had never used a Pi before were programming in Python, coding music and making LED traffic lights in Scratch. All of these new skills were preparation for the second day, or The Awesome Day of Messing About with Cool Stuff as we like to call it.

If it was my classroom they’d be sitting boy-girl-boy-girl. Alphabetically.

Dinner is really interesting. It’s a chance for the group to relax and chat, and to process and sort the vast amount of information that they’ve crammed into their heads during the day. So it’s an important part of the course, where ideas are shared and people start to talk about what they were going to make tomorrow. You could already see some of the projects taking shape. It’s an essential and productive hiatus, like letting meat rest after a blast in the oven or outgassing near the surface of the sea after a long dive. (I have just won a bet that I couldn’t mix cooking and diving metaphors in one sentence. Yes, Pulitzer Board: who’s laughing now?)

Day 2: TADOMAWCS

It’s day 2 with Carrie Anne!

On day 2 everyone split into groups, had a nice cup of tea, did a little happy dance of creativity and then made stuff. This is the favourite day for both the attendees and the education team. There’s no pressure to produce a specific product and everyone gets to work at their own pace and in their own comfort zone. The day is about building skills and confidence, and about sharing good practice.

What I particularly enjoyed this week was watching and helping those teams that kept plugging away at problems, debugging software and troubleshooting hardware, until it worked (or nearly worked!) This problem solving, creativity and perseverance is at the heart of computing in the classroom and is what makes it special. We also had inspiring talks from Eben Upton, Lance Howarth and Rachel Rayns (Google them—it’s not as if they are called John Smith or nuffin’!)

Babbage being re-purposed. I actually saw Ben Nuttall with a pair of pliers up his bum at one point.

There were some fantastic projects. Twitter-enabled projects were well represented, perhaps because many of the group were keen social media users, and this type of project has a huge appeal to students. One team wanted to do some robotics, so we scavenged an old robot and they repurposed it using a Pibrella—cheap and cheerful but with huge learning potential. We’ll be getting in a variety of motor boards and roboty things for future Picademies. We like robots.

Creative mode

This cohort has already impressed us with their continued collaboration and engagement via Twitter, our forums and their blogs. We know that some of them have gone back to school and are already changing things for the better, for instance by running CPD events, writing resources and setting up their classrooms to teach computing effectively. Thanks to you all for coming, you have earned your Raspberry Pi Certified Educator badges!

Kelly receiving her RPCE badge from Eben. It was all downhill from here.

Picademy 4 applications now open

So it was a fantastic couple of days again and although it’s tiring for the RasPi education team at the time we never get tired of doing it. The next Picademy is in September 2014  where you are guaranteed free, world class CPD; expert support; essential skills and practical ideas to take back to your classroom. And lots of fun. (We also guarantee that you will not get: encyclopaedic PowerPoint printouts; curly, mild cheddar butties; tedious talks; or role play (well, perhaps a tiny bit of the latter. It’s the CPD law.)

Picademy 4 will look favourably on applications from teachers in the South West of England. We’re very aware of regional accessibility to training and support, and so occasionally we will focus on specific regions. So if you are a teacher in the South West, we would love to have you here. This does not mean applications are open to teachers in the South West only! Please apply wherever you are.

I cannot believe that you are still here reading my brain-drool. The application form is here. Good luck!

Rickmote: Rickrolling Chromecast users

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The Raspberry Pi is a favourite tool of security researchers, and we’ve seen a number of demonstrations of how important it is to secure your devices against attack that use it. (I got stopped in the queue for the cinema last week by someone who recognised me from this blog, and has been working in penetration testing with the Pi for a couple of years; the conversation I had with him was much more fun than the movie turned out to be.)

Bugs in commercial software are open to exploits, and I have yet to see an exploit more enjoyable than this one, which takes advantage of a bug in the way Chromecast recognises wifi.

Under normal use, the Chromecast can be sent a deauth command that disconnects it from wifi. But there’s a bug: when the media player is kicked off the local network it enters a config mode and becomes a wifi hotspot – waiting for machines nearby to connect with it and send it a new configuration.

Which is enough to make you feel let-down, and to make you cry and say goodbye, quite frankly.

This hack is the work of Dan Petro, a whitehat at security consultancy Bishop Fox. He’s using a Pi, a couple of wifi cards and a touchscreen – along with Aircrack (open-source WEP and WPA-PSK-cracking software). It takes the device about thirty seconds to connect, take over the network and get Rickrolling; and, of course, it has to be within wifi range. You can watch a video presentation from Dan that goes into much more depth about the project on YouTube.

Rachel, our Creative Producer, has a Chromecast. I plan on building a Rickmote and hiding on her balcony.

 

New Raspberry Pi Models

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Today, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced the Model B+ version of the Raspberry Pi. I thought I’d take a moment to explain the changes to users so they understand what’s new.

  • These new Pis still use the same system on chip (BCM2835) and have the same amount of memory, so there’s no need to upgrade for performance improvements.
  • The devices now feature four USB ports. This is potentially useful if you plug in a lot of devices
  • Improved quality sound out of the analog jack
  • Reduced power consumption (up to 1W), which is just under a third of the Pi’s total power consumption
  • Additional GPIO pins which promises more connectivity
  • micro-SD connectivity instead of a regular sized SD card.

It should be noted however that Raspbmc isn’t abandoning support for 256MB Pis (Model A or B), in the next update (which will arrive shortly), there will be some improvements to the way Gotham runs on the Pi, which is especially beneficial to the limited amount of memory on 256Mb Pis.

Raspbmc should run straight away on these new models, as changes needed to support the hardware were made well in advance.

Thanks

Sam

New product launch! Introducing Raspberry Pi Model B+

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Meet your new favourite piece of hardware.

In the two years since we launched the current Raspberry Pi Model B, we’ve often talked about our intention to do one more hardware revision to incorporate the numerous small improvements people have been asking for. This isn’t a ”Raspberry Pi 2”, but rather the final evolution of the original Raspberry Pi. Today, I’m very pleased to be able to announce the immediate availability, at $35 – it’s still the same price, of what we’re calling the Raspberry Pi Model B+.

You’re a handsome devil. What’s your name? (Click to enlarge!)

The Model B+ uses the same BCM2835 application processor as the Model B. It runs the same software, and still has 512MB RAM; but James and the team have made the following key improvements:

  • More GPIO. The GPIO header has grown to 40 pins, while retaining the same pinout for the first 26 pins as the Model B.
  • More USB. We now have 4 USB 2.0 ports, compared to 2 on the Model B, and better hotplug and overcurrent behaviour.
  • Micro SD. The old friction-fit SD card socket has been replaced with a much nicer push-push micro SD version.
  • Lower power consumption. By replacing linear regulators with switching ones we’ve reduced power consumption by between 0.5W and 1W.
  • Better audio. The audio circuit incorporates a dedicated low-noise power supply.
  • Neater form factor. We’ve aligned the USB connectors with the board edge, moved composite video onto the 3.5mm jack, and added four squarely-placed mounting holes.

If you’re interested in precise measurements, or want to find out what the new GPIO does, check out the diagrams below.

Mechanical specs: you’ll want to look at these if you’re building cases or other housing. Click to enlarge.

GPIO diagram – there’s a lot more to play with now! Click to enlarge.

We think you’re going to love Model B+, but to ensure continuity of supply for our industrial customers we’ll be keeping Model B in production for as long as there’s demand for it.

The B+ is available from this morning from many of the regular Raspberry Pi stockists. If you want to go direct to our two main manufacturing partners, you’ll find it at Farnell/element14/Newark here, and at RS/Allied Components here.

A few of our friends got their hands on a Model B+ on Friday, and have been playing with it over the weekend. Here’s what they had to say:

 

New Raspberry Pi Model B+ Revealed

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Today news of a new Raspberry Pi model was revealed by various social media channels, blogs, and RS Components sites. These included Hackaday.com and the German RS Components site. According the Hackaday someone was sent a “Model B+” by Element14 before the official launch date.

It’s unclear what processor is used but the RS site implies it is the same Broadcom device as on the existing Model A and Model B. The RAM is stated as being 512MB.

Here is what the new device looks like :

The most obvious changes are :

  • 40 pin GPIO header
  • 4 USB ports
  • Removed composite video port
  • Power socket moved to same side as HDMI port
  • Redesigned power regulator
  • 4 mounting holes
  • MicroSD card slot
  • It isn’t called “Model C”

The specifications are :

  • Broadcom BCM2835 700MHz processor
  • 512 MB ​​SDRAM
  • HD 1080p video output
  • Composite video output (PAL / NTSC)
  • Stereo audio output
  • Ethernet port 10/100 BaseT RJ45
  • Video / audio HDMI 1.3 and 1.4
  • 4-pin Audio/Composite -Video Out jack, 3.5 mm
  • 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • 15-pin MPI CSI-2 connector for Raspberry Pi HD Video Camera
  • 15-pin serial display interface connector
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Power supply: +5 V @ 2 A via microUSB jack
  • Dimensions: 85 x 56 x 17 cm
  • 40-pin connector for GPIO and serial buses (compatible with 26-pin male connector for Raspberry Pi Model A / B)

The German and Spanish RS sites provide links to three additional documents :

The PCB is marked as “Made in UK” so presumably it is being made at the Sony factory in Wales.

As of yet there is no official confirmation of this new product but that must be just around the corner.

MagPi issue 25 – out now!

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For your weekend reading pleasure, here’s issue 25 of the MagPi! Published just yesterday, the latest issue of everyone’s favourite free, monthly, community-produced Raspberry Pi magazine is as full of fantastic stuff as ever.

Click to read The MagPi!

The cover story is one that’ll definitely get some attention in our house this weekend: it’s a full Python simulation of the Pocket Enigma Cipher Machine, a cleverly devised toy that demonstrates some of the principles of a real Enigma machine like the one many of you will recognise in the cover photo. Used by the German armed forces during World War II to encipher messages, these used rotating disks to achieve a sophisticated substitution cipher; the Pocket machine, and its Python simulation, use two disks to arrive at a fun, if not exactly unbreakable, cipher.

We’re delighted to see an article by Andrew Suttle, the MagPi’s youngest guest writer so far. Andrew reviews the Fish Dish, an easy-to-build add-on board aimed at beginners, which he has tested with ScratchGPIO and Python. Also aimed at beginners is a new series on learning BASIC, which opens this issue with the kind of background that has most of Pi Towers sighing wistfully and exchanging anecdotes about our childhoods.

There’s the second half of a two-part article on understanding networks and network analysis tools, an introduction to electronic measurement with Raspberry Pi and BitScope Micro, a background piece by one of the creators of the Navio autopilot shield which the many backers of its successful Indiegogo campaign will be eager to read, and — another personal favourite — a tutorial on building an iPad/iPhone control panel for Raspberry Pi with RasPiConnect, taking the wonderful MouseAir deluxe automated cat toy as its example.

As usual, there’s so much here that I can’t mention even half of the articles, tutorials and reviews you’ll find here for beginners, advanced users and everyone in between. Download your copy now!

Bare-metal Tetris duel

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A couple of weeks ago, we featured a first-year undergraduate project from Imperial College in London: a bare-metal port of StarFox to the Raspberry Pi. It’s stupendously good; even more so when you realise that the people behind it are 18 and 19 years old.

I discovered that a second group from the very same class has another bare-metal doozy of a gaming project running on the Pi: head-to-head Tetris.

The team says you’re seeing:

- 4000 lines of documented ARM assembly code
- Optimised driver for a NES controller connected via GPIO
- Asynchronous networking for two Pis connected via GPIO
- Doubly buffered rendering logic for HDMI output
- Custom ARMv6 assembler written from scratch in C (released as binary only.

What’s in the water down in South Kensington? I don’t think we’ve seen this much assembly language since…this time last year, when we found an Imperial College bare-metal chess project.

Everything you need to replicate the Tetris setup is available at GitHub. Thanks to Han Qiao, Piotr Chabierski, Michał Sienkiewicz
and Utsav Tiwary for a really lovely piece of work.

Operation Counterstrike – A Minecraft Game For The Pi

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After my “Building A Castle In Minecraft With Python” article I wanted to create a Minecraft game that was a bit more interactive. The “find a diamond” type game had already been done so I decided to do a slightly different version with a time limit.

“Operation Counterstrike” was born.

The script randomly places a number of TNT blocks around the map and the player has to find and destroy them all before the timers run out. As in my castle script you can dive in and start adjusting the Python code to change the game play or implement your own ideas.

Initial Setup

In order to make use of this script you will need have Minecraft installed on your Pi with the Python API ready to use. Follow these tutorials if in doubt :

Download Script

The game script needs to be placed into the directory created when setting up the API. In the API setup tutorial linked above I use /home/pi/mcpi-api. You can download the script directly to your Pi using using :

cd ~/mcpi-api wget https://bitbucket.org/MattHawkinsUK/rpispy-misc/raw/master/minecraft/counterstrike.py

Alternatively here is a link to the Python game script.

Running The Game

Launch Minecraft on the Pi and create a new world. To free the mouse cursor you can press the TAB key.

To run the game you will need to launch the script either from an LXTerminal window on the Pi or a command line on a remote machine that is connected to the Pi (i.e. using Putty).

Navigate to the API folder that you copied the script into and execute it.

cd ~/mcpi-api python counterstrike.py

Adding a number after the script will set the number of devices to generate. For example :

python counterstrike.py 7

will generate 7. If you do not specify a number the default is 3.

Playing The Game

Once the script is running you should see messages appear in your Minecraft window. You will be told how many devices are out there as well as status messages.

The devices are placed in random positions around the map. Devices on land will be buried under the surface whereas devices in water will rest on the sea-bed. Each device has a randomly generated timer ranging from 80 to 180 seconds.

The status updates will report the distance (R) to the nearest device and the lowest timer count (T). The nearest device may not always have the lowest count so you may have less time than you think to find the device that is about to explode!

When you destroy a device you will get bonus time added to all the remaining devices.

Find and destroy all the bombs before you run out of time!

PiFace Control & Display

One of my reasons for creating this script was to test my new PiFace Control & Display add-on. This allows you to easily add a 16×2 LCD screen to the Pi with switches. Within the script you will find 5 lines that relate to configuring the PiFace and outputting messages to it.

If you want to use one then remove the # symbol from the front of the following 5 lines :

#import pifacecad as pf ... #cad.lcd.clear() ... #cad.lcd.write(msg) ... #cad = pf.PiFaceCAD() #cad.lcd.backlight_on()

Have fun and happy hunting!

Possible Future Updates
  • Remove all TNT blocks when player fails to find them so they aren’t left in world
  • Place bonus blocks that give the player extra time or extra clues to TNT block positions
  • Limit the maximum timer value due to bonuses

Hamster Party Cam

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As you may have heard, the Boardroom at Pi Towers contains a wall covered in the poster competition entries from before Christmas 2013. We hold all our meetings in this room, and even run workshops in it during Picademy. It’s also fairly common knowledge that I have a short attention span, and that on occasion when I’m in the boardroom (I’m not going to admit how often in case Lance or Eben reads this!) I find my gaze and mind wandering over to that wall and I wonder if I can make any of those imagined Raspberry Pi project ideas a reality.

One of the most striking of the posters has the catchy title of ‘Hamster Party Cam’. Upon further reading, the designer of the project, Violet, aged 6, tells us that…

Hamsters are nocturnal, which means that they sleep in the day time and come out at night. This means that when you are sleeping, your hamsters are up and about and when you are up and about, your hamsters are sleeping!

Violet makes a convincing argument. We need to know what those hamsters are doing when we are sleeping. We have our suspicions, Violet and I, that they are partying… like animals (small ones). So with my trusty Raspberry Pi, Camera Module and Pibrella, I set forth to make the project a reality.

Violet’s poster in situ

Hamster Party Cam is designed to avoid interfering with the habitat of hamsters, as every pet owner has a duty of care for the wellbeing of their creature. It uses a reed switch and a magnet on the hamster wheel as a trigger that when detected by the Pibrella, starts an LED disco light show, plays an mp3 (hamster dance) to a connected speaker, and takes a photo with the Pi Camera module.

Hamster Party Cam setup

Not having an actual hamster to test my creation on was a bit of a hurdle, but I managed to acquire a hamster cage from Emma, our office manager, nesting material from the shredder, and a toy hamster from the internet, which Gordon lovingly named “special patrol group”. As you may have seen from twitter, the entire office ended up getting behind the project and going a little hamster mad. Liz even suggested getting a real hamster for the office as she was really unimpressed with the toy one! Here is a picture generated by the hamster party cam system:

Special Patrol caught in the act of partying with hamster party cam

If you would like to make a similar project to detect your pets movement and take pictures of them then take a look at our new Raspberry Pi Learning Make resource, Hamster Party Cam, here. Take it, remix it, and make it even better!

Steer a car. With cheese.

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Building your own remote-controlled robot or car is a favourite activity for kids who are using a Pi to learn about programming and electronics.

But this is the first one we’ve encountered that interfaces with a remote control made of cheese.

We absolutely love MaKey MaKey here at Pi Towers: it’s a kit that enables you to use any conductive objects in place of keypresses or switches, and there is little more engaging when you’re a kid than being able to build inputs out of things you’re more used to eating for dinner. I think this setup is a considerable imaginative leap forward from the standard bananapiano. I am not knocking bananapianos. Bananapianos are great. But it’s the canonical MaKey MaKey project, and so many people stop there, when there’s a whole world of conductive objects out there; and a whole world of things to make them control.

Like cheese. And tiny cars.

This is the work of Conor O’Neill, who wanted to do some family electronics his kids would enjoy. You can read a great writeup of his project on his website, with all the code you’ll need, and thoughts on where he wants to take the project next.

We salute your greasy forefingers, Conor and kids.

The CamJam EduKit – basic electronics for £5!

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Liz: I wasn’t at the Cambridge Raspberry Jam this weekend: I was working in Manchester on Friday, and then became an aunt that evening (congrats Katie and Ben!). It meant I missed a special announcement: so I’ve asked Mike Horne, king of the CamJam organisers, to fill everyone in with this guest post. Over to you, Mike!

From little acorns…

We realised after the May Cambridge Raspberry Jam that we now had a good stock of workshop material, and began to think of ways to use the material away from the Jam. After all, educational material isn’t much good if it isn’t in the hands of people who might use it.

Liz sells Pis at a previous CamJam. If you want to meet people from the Foundation, the CamJams are the place to be.

At the May Jam, we ran a basic electronics workshop – you know the sort of thing: LEDs, switches and buzzers…and we wondered if we could create a kit with the necessary bits and bobs. People could buy the kits, then download the worksheets and teach themselves.

Around that time, Jamie Mann from The Pi Hut came
to us with the exact same idea – use the CamJam material as the basis for kits. And so, a partnership was formed to bring the idea to fruition. Jamie was in charge of procurement and assembling the kits, Tim would write the worksheets and Mike would test them
out.

Eventually, we came up with a name and the “CamJam EduKit” was born.

The CamJam EduKit is priced at £5 and comes with everything you need to have fun with basic electronics projects, including a project tin to keep it all in! We hope that this low price point will allow the kit to appeal to both families and education.

If it is successful, there will be more kits, the first of which is likely to use sensors to detect temperature, light levels and movement.

We hope that the CamJam EduKits will be used to further the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s educational aims and to get kids started not only with electronics but with Python programming as well.

Profits from the kits are going to be donated to the Cambridge Raspberry Jam, so we can continue to develop our educational programme.

You can buy the EduKit from The Pi Hut via the CamJam site, and you’ll find the accompanying educational material on the same page. All the material is free to download, so if you want to take a look at it beforehand, go right ahead!

Michael Horne (@recantha), Tim Richardson (@geeky_tim)
& Jamie Mann (@ThePiHut)

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