We’re moving House !!!

Yes it’s true – I’ve successfully migrated the blog to independent hosting for more control and better features. You will see more responsive loading of pages and I have more control , WIn WIN. Anyways folks before I board up the doors to our old home – we need to have a competition – agree !?!? And we all know what Competitions mean ?? It means Prizes !! What does Prizes mean ?? It means Free Goodies !!

So head over here to claim 1 of the 3 mystery prizes – let’s do it:

http://syntax-err0r.com/

Good Luck  😛

expEYES Jr. ‘user trip’

As mentioned in Part1 of my review of expEYES Jr. we are looking at a very capable ‘science experimental kit’ both in terms of physical experiments and programming. The range of experiments makes the device worth £50 in my opinion,  there are however room for development and improvement – particularly in the documentation / user manual. It would for time constraints be impossible to cover every possible experiment in this review – but lets go through a few different exercises to give you a flavor. As a start once software is installed i would recommend doing the first basic exercise just to verify the device. And for it’s flaws I would highly recommend that you DO follow the manual  – against geek nature , I know. For the record I am running this review on Linux Mint installed on a MacBook Pro.

So let us go through a very basic measuring a voltage output from PVS on IN1, wire up the unit as shown in picture. The Terminal screws are a bit stiff at times – this no doubt will be rectified in the next edition. Find the ExpEyes application and open up.

The screen here shows a 1V output from PVS with IN1 used as input - we have used CH2 to show trace.

The screen here shows a 1V output from PVS with IN1 used as input – we have used CH2 to show trace.

Use jumper cables / clips provided to connect PVS to IN1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lets do something a little bit more advance – we’ll move on to Sinewave and Squarewave, hook up unit as shown in picture below:
‘Drag’ A1 to channel 1 – set PVS to 1 Volt and you should see this Sinewave across your screen.

image

Sinewave output from A1 (analogue port).

Hook up SINE port to A1 (analogue) as shown - yes you can 'HotPlug' :P

Hook up SINE port to A1 (analogue) as shown – yes you can ‘HotPlug’ 😛

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK let’s combine this with a square wave , assign SQ1 to  CH2 by dragging the SQR1 tag to channel 2 , you should now have 2 traces running a cross your screen like this :

SINE wave and Square wave running parallel on Cannel 1& 2. Fourier Trace Spectrum analysis window in right hand corner.

We we have also added a Fourier Trace in right hand corner, yes I told you this kit is impressive.

Right a fun thing for kids to do is to measure ‘Body Resistance’ – hold a probe in each hand , hooked up to an oscilloscope – science has gotta be fun ! We’re running a low voltage of 4V across 2 probes from PVS and A2, hook up your unit as shown below with a 200K Ω resistor:

image

Connect a 200K Ω resistor between A2 and GND , loop A1 and PVS with a wire – then add 2 open ended wires from A2 and PVS.

So my young assistant is holding the 2 open ended wires / probes from A2 and PVS (4V) , essentially measuring his body resistance between his arms /chest. I must stress we are using a LOW voltage of 4 Volts here :p The resulting trace can be seen below:

Variable trace showing resistance from input A2 (analogue).

Constantly variable trace showing resistance from input A2 (analogue).

Last but not least we need to explore the programming capability in this kit , specifically Python. In order to use this we need to install the NumPy modules – follow all software installation steps here. As usual we’ll start of with a set of easy commands to verify the expEYES module: Start Terminal and initiate python; type python and hit return. To initiate the expEYES module and measure capacitance type the following commands , hit return between each (do not add spaces or >>>, these will appear automatically in python) :

>>> import expeyes.eyesj
>>> p=expeyes.eyesj.open()
>>> p.measure.cap()

You will now have a readout of  stray capacitance on port IN1, you should see this in terminal :

Measuring stray capacitance on port IN1, 3 repeats to show variation over time.

Let’s try some plotting / tracing in Python – and I’m not talking conspiracy theories here , code is already KING !!  First hook your module up as seen on pic below , SINE must be connected to A1. Let’s plot a SINEwave in Python using the expEYES module as wave generator and input: type the following code in terminal, hit return between each line:

>>> p.set_state(10.1)     #set OD1 to 'high'
>>> print p.set_voltage(2.5)
>>> print p.get_voltage(1)
>>> from pylab import *
>>> ion()
>>> t,v = p.capture (1,300,100)
>>> (plot t,v)

You should see this trace across your screen :

Python is here used to code not just to generate the SINEwave  but also to plot the output from A1.

Python is here used to code the entire experiment; not just generating the SINEwave but also to plot the output from A1.

Hook SINE up to A1 (analogue) & OD1 to IN1 , we will set PVS to 2.5V and do SINE trace from A1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK so what has all this got to do with Raspberry Pi ?? Well the expYES software will actually run on a Raspberry Pi  – however buggy and processor hungry at the moment. I am in dialog with PiSupply to iron out the gremlins & I will soon be passing this kit on to someone with expert programming skills for further evaluation. As said there is clearly room for improvement with the expEYES Jr kit – the only reason I’m being ‘nice’ about it because of the incredible potential for a great learning resource. There has already been a lot of careful thought and clever engineering poured into the development of this kit – it is not just a ‘mayfly’.

 

Watch this space for further developments !

Full Circle

Tuesday was a very special day for a few very good reasons – as the title indicates it involved a small loop back to good things past. Sheffield has a great heritage in industry, engineering and technology – which is why I did my Teacher Training at Sheffield Hallam University many years ago. Anyway enough ‘sentimental journey’  the technology heritage is kept alive and well by a host of innovative business’s – none more so than Pimoroni Ltd. So when an invitation came from co-founder Paul Beech to come and  visit the ‘Pirate’s Den’ it was a only a matter of saddling up and head up to the ‘Technology Crucible’ that is Sheffield. PiMoroni specializes in anything RaspberryPi from breakout boards, LED’s and components to more advanced diagnostic tools such as the BitScope USB oscilloscope. They’re also known for the rather fetching PiBow – not to forget the 1st UK Kickstarter : Picade (Retro Game PiConsole) at an impressive 220% above funding goal.

One could possibly be forgiven for thinking – well these guys sell stuff online , so what ??  What’s the big deal ??  Let me try to fill you in folks – my mind was ever so slightly ‘blown’ today having witnessed a great business ethos and some of PiMoroni’s latest R&D going on in-between settling in to their new workspace.

I couldn’t think of a nicer office view than 5 industrial strength lazer cutters creating the key components for the PiBow’s etc. I’ve been told there is a cure . . .

Geek Kingdom - officially known as Production Floor.

Geek Kingdom – officially known as Production Floor. 5  sizable Lazer cutters in right hand corner churning out PiBow’s and other essential components for assembly.

Paul was kind enough to give me a guided tour of the shop floor; the array of lazer cutters where particularly impressive – but then I’m easily pleased 😛

Paul checking quality and accuracy of cutting - QC is done with visual inspection.

Paul checking quality and accuracy of cutting – QC is done with visual inspection.

The ethos of the business and attitude to production methods were really quite impressive, materials sourced locally where possible – and certainly a strong will to support manufacture within the UK, very commendable. This is not just about keeping production in the UK, but a great reduction in waste, low transport costs and a high ‘green credential’ – and yes all cut off / waste acrylic goes to reuse and recycling.

Random samples taken for inspection reduses returns and unessecary waste.

Random samples taken for inspection before packing and shipping reduces returns and unnecessary waste.

The main reason for my visit was to get some insight into production methods, use of materials and professional advice for an up and coming project which i hope will materialize in the near future. So having torn myself away from the ambiance of cut acrylic and the hum of 5 lazer cutters i made it up to Jon, Paul and Phil’s offices, I knew I was at the right place as everyone in the office was equipped with at least 1 PiBow Coupe each. That is other than the familiar face of Gordon Henderson who obviously had 2 !!  There was also an array of exquisite and unfamiliar looking components crowding Gordon’s desk – which I have been told is the best kept ‘open-source’ secret in history of R&D !! Until Today !! But I’ve been sworn to ‘open-source’ secrecy so I can’t tell . . .

Why is Gordon looking so pleased with himself ?!? Is it the 2 PiBow Coupe's ??

Why is Gordon looking so pleased with himself ?!?
Is it the 2 PiBow Coupe’s ??

So after a brief chat with Paul and Gordon about my project – it was inevitable that conversation veered on to the ‘secret project’ that we are not at all allowed to talk about – ever !!  I personally think it was a Pirate Plot to distract me – and dazzle me with bright LED’s, we’ll never know.

I don't know what Gordon is trying to tell us here - lot's of secret measurin g going on

I don’t know what Gordon is trying to tell us here – lot’s of secret measuring going on . . . .

OK – I’m being somewhat mischievous but I am genuinely excited about what is being developed by Jon, Paul, Phil and Gordon here and we will hopefully see the fruits of their labor very soon.  The success of good development very often hinges  on being a bit daring and taking a few risks –  I believe this team will produce something very exciting and successful.

Jon Williamson working on the most 'open-source' secret code ever . . .

Co-Founder Jon Williamson working on the most ‘open-source’ secret code ever . . .

So a great day out was had – catching up on some great news and hacks, thanks to everybody for their hospitality 😛

Nice PiBow Gordon - Model B you say !!  But what's with the rather 'alien looking' PCBits ??!?   . . . ohh that's secret too . . .

Nice PiBow Gordon – Model B you say !!
But what’s with the rather ‘alien looking’ PCBits ??!?
. . . ohh that’s secret too . . .

Ohh did I mention that no one leaves the Pirate Den empty handed  . . .

 

expEYES Junior Review ; 1st encounter.

The good people at Pi Supply sent a rather generous swag box to review and I have been busy playing – sorry TESTING the expEYES module from the Phoenix Project in New Delhi the last week or so. The expEYES Junior is described as a ‘Science Learning and Experiment Kit’ which in some ways is selling the module a bit short. Sure at a price tag of £50 it is not cheap , but then the expEYES kit is not an ‘educational toy’ hence the Science and Learning tag. As mentioned I feel the module is somewhat undersold for a few very good reasons. It CAN work as a 4 channel PC oscilloscope; OK maybe not high grade but for a KS3 Science lesson – great value added. The expEYES will work as a waveform generator (SINE) and will also display squarewave readouts on all four channels apart from more traditional measuring and quantifying of analogue inputs. Could I also ask my faithful follower(s) if they have encountered a unit like this that is programmable with Python ? Please leave a comment below if you do – as mentioned this is a very capable little kit.

So what is in the box , I hear you say – well apart from the main module , USB cable and a CD containing software there is a selection of resistors LED’s, capacitors and some pre-cut jumper cables. The inclusion of the screwdriver for the terminals is a nice gesture, this is the only tool you will need for setting up any of the experiments.

The kit contains all components necessary to perform a great variety of science, technology and electronic experiments.

The expEYE Junior kit contains all components and tools necessary to perform a great variety of science, technology and electronic experiments.

It has to be said that this kit is not ‘polished’ in terms of presentation, packaging and finish of components – but it is honest ‘whatyouseeiswhatyouget’. You might have to try a bit harder at undoing some of the terminal screws at first, wire ends are not soldered or capped possibly resulting in frayed ends and sore fingers. I will also suggest that the documentation is made a bit more ‘Junior’ friendly as the tag ‘Junior’ infers – you’re looking at  a very gifted young person to go through some of the experiments. That is NOT to say that I suggest dumbing down – merely clarifying assembly diagrams and making the instructions ‘bitesize’  will easily justify the term ‘Junior’.

And this is where i argue the value of £50 to be worth every penny – the thought and skill in devising the experiments are great if not inspirational for any person regardless of age. The  breadth of experiments and scope for learning makes this a great companion for a secondary school, easily extended into post-16. As you have guessed already I am evaluating the expEYES from an ‘educators’ point of view – I would NOT hesitate in recommending any parent to  invest in this kit for their child’s education. I’ll even go one further and say that anyone finding a fully functional USB oscilloscope with these capabilities for £50 is a wizard or a ‘giant pork pie slinger’.

OK enough ‘teaching & learning’ jabber we’re ready to go; let’s get experimenting and have some fun with expEYES.  I’m not going to cover installation of software at this stage – this is merely a 1st brief overview of capability. I have tested the software on Linux Ubuntu and Linux Mint (latest distros) and wait for it . . . drumroll . . .  yes  . . . RaspberryPi   !!

 

. . . . hands on Linux / Debian testing coming up very soon   . . .

 

User review here.

Young Rewired State (Festival of Code)

I was fortunate to do some work with Young Rewired State on Thursday (very short notice  :/ ) and I have to say that the talent and enthusiasm for code and programming has been a very uplifting experience.

So the event held at the LNK centre in Centrale  – Croydon was focused on the Festival of Code and we saw a broad spectrum from Scratch coding to HTML webauthoring – and of course Karaoke 😛

As mentioned I came in late to the program, the young coders had been given a brief of developing a  website with unique and original content using a variety of programming skills. The ‘Crew’ was set a brief to make a portal or website called ‘Know Your Area’ where by typing in your postcode the website automatically displays statistics and data about the area you live in. The information range from local schools, shopping & business – also crime statistics. This was supplemented by a  Quiz and a Prezi presentation all embedded in the website – clever stuff.

Tom and Rory are the definite Code ninjas - respect !!

Tom and Rory are the definite Code ninjas – respect !!

The enthusiasm and dedication to the task was infectious and very impressive, this was clearly not a ‘chore’ that had to be endured.

Miles is creating animations.

Miles is creating animations.

All files and code had to be uploaded to github; including creating repo from scratch and converting files. The skills acquired through the days will set up the youngsters with a great competence ion coding and programming.

Margaret and Declan uploading code to Git

Margaret and Declan uploading code to Git

Collaboration was evident in any aspect of the project – great spirit !!

Marley & Miles have been working on HTML & Scratch

Marley & Miles was working on HTML & Scratch

It think its fair to say that Tom was the ‘performer’ in the goup -this to much amusement at times;  I mean coding is meant to be FUN !! ( I was barred from uploading Youtube clips of his performance 😜)

Tom performing 'code'   :P

Tom performing ‘code’ 😛

Things are coming together in the 11th hour , nothing like the smell of panic in the air  . . .

Tom , Rory and William working on the details of the main website.

Tom , Rory and William working on the details of the main website.

And here is what the  finished website looks like, very professional – great design and colour scheme:

Know Your Place Beta

Know Your Place Beta

FOC is hosted by i-DAT and University of Plymouth and I am very sorry to have to miss the Grand Finale but why not have a look at some of the 180 great projects and talented coders and designers taking part in Festival of Code 2014.

Swag Box Review coming very soon !

I can’t believe the Swag box that arrived yesterday  from Pi_Supply – stay tuned for some serious geeky reviews ; but not before I’ve played – errr sorry scientifically researched the gadgets 😛

 

IMG_0633

RaspberryPi model B+ update ; GPIO fix.

OK so a week gone with testing and geekery after a very exciting and successful launch of the Model B+, it is fair to say we were all taken aback. But as always with a  product launch there are Gremlins hiding in the Attic – and some of us were experiencing problems with unexpected shutdown, no wake up from sleep and USB connection issues. Well fear not as the ‘community spirit’ kicked in and the twitterverse soon lit up with links to potential fixes and debates as to what could be the issue(s). ThePizone was quickly out to highlight efforts made by Alex from Raspi.TV and many good people on Raspberry Pi forum to ‘kill the bug’. Please follow there individual links for detailed descriptions of the issues and solutions, but here is the  fix condensed in to 5 easy pieces: If you did what I did and in excitement simply copied / duped your exciting SD card from Model B – you MUST follow these steps.

First download replacement boot code here (bootcode.bin) and place on desktop;
do NOT unzip or modify.

Insert the SD Card (micro) you booted your Raspberry Model B+ into your card reader and open the ‘boot disk’ or partition and locate and REPLACE  ‘bootcode.bin’ with the one you just downloaded .
Eject card safely and insert in to SD Card slot on your PiB+.

Boot up your Pi, log on as normal and BEFORE going in to GUI (starts) or desktop type in the following command:

sudo rpi-udate

hit return & answer yes to questions about using additional space/upgrade -now go and make a cup of tea – it might take a few minutes. With tea and biscuit at the ready type:

sudo reboot

you will now have activated the new bootrom , log in as normal – again BEFORE loading GUI and desktop lets check firmware version, do :

uname -a

if you see the string ‘Linux raspberry 3.12.24+‘ you have done the right thing and your B+ is ready for some turbocharged geekery.

 

You should of course always stay on top of all officially released builds and updates with the 2 staple commands:

sudo apt-get update

and

sudo apt-get upgrade

I mean – kids raised by wolves know that . . .

Anidèes RaspberryPi Case Review

I am constantly looking out for ‘unusual’ or ‘different’ design solutions for the RaspberryPI  some will work as intended – some will be no more than a cheap gimmick. Cases for the Pi come by the dozen and it can be difficult to judge quality unless you can get your hands on the product before you buy. I have always admired the PiBow cases  for the protection they offer compared to material and cost, I will be reviewing a PiBow shortly (hint). I stumbled across a detailed writeup of the Anidèes ‘Al Pi’ in Gadgetoids blog – this immediately got the hook in me. Br Sean from Anidèes very kindly offered to provide a sample and the lovely people from Overclockers promptly sent me a silver case (+ Haribos) for review – has Christmas has come early ?

First impressions

Enough chitchat lets unwrap this thing – well ‘unwrap’ is a slightly crude term for this one – it is more of a  ritual. Let me make on thing clear first – this is not a cheap case; at £34.95 you would clearly have to think carefully about what you are using the device for. Back to the unveiling, the packaging alone screams quality and all the components are carefully protected from scratches with liners and peel back layers. The key components are the Aluminium case w/screws, 5mm clear acrylic lid, USB/Micro power cord w/switch and 5mm acrylic VESA mounts.

IMG_0468

Anidèes case unwrapped , we are clearly looking at a high quality product.

 

As you might have guessed this is a hefty case – this is the Hummer of the Raspberry Pi’s  : I would happily throw this one in front of a bus – if I didn’t have to pay for the damage to the bus afterwards.

IMG_0475

Pre Assembly reveals the construction of the case 4mm case thickness short side, 6 mm long side.

 

Installation is very straightforward, allen key (hex key) is provided – undo 4 corner screws pop Raspberry Pi in (exact fit) fasten Pi with 2 provided screws and fix lid with 4 screws again. As mentioned the build quality here is exceptional ; I have it as a guess the case is cast aluminium with all ports and recesses beautifully CNC milled – surface finish is a matte-ish, pearl coating (possibly anodised). The RaspberryPi looks very much at home in the case with what looks like a hefty piece of hardened glass bolted to the case. This is not just about protection but a proud display of engineering and design elevating the Pi to its rightful place of excellence.

IMG_0490

Installation is very straightforward with a very exact fit, minimal but precise clearance for all ports.

 

A lot of thought have gone in to the design of features that not just look good but also serve a function , vent holes, recesses, flush mounted screws etc. There is full access to ports with 99% of all cable heads – unless you’ve got a really cheap’n nasty cable knockoff ;  GPIO access is possible with a cobbler /ribbon.

IMG_0496

Please note recess forGPIO ribbon top right edge of case: this case has been designed for use.

 

The ‘Al PI’ case can be mounted on any flat surface if required, the kit also includes 2 additional pieces of 5mm acrylic drilled to VESA standard allowing mounting to a TV/monitor.

So who’s going to fork out £34.99 for a case for the RaspberyPi , I hear you ask ?

Well consider the fact that we can set the Pi up as a media server – I certainly would invest in this if I had this on display in a school or institution. You’re going to have to work very hard to damage the case itself –  and with being able to mount the case securely to a surface or a table we are talking a very robust and secure setup for about £60 including a Pi.

IMG_0508

‘Raspberry’ vent-holes, silicon bumper feet and CNC Milled ‘Key Hole’ mounts.

 There is no hiding the price tag but the engineering behind this case is very impressive, but I would like to see a feature added in future developments. This is a case for indoor use only as it is not water/weather proof. For the price, and with some minor engineering I think the case could easily be made at least weatherproof. I could see a solution of slightly more over sized ports in combination with rubber / silicon grommets, after all the Aluminium would dissipate heat  quite efficiently without the use of vent holes.

Stay tuned for Part II : Road Test with GPIO and breakout boards !!

GPIO sorcery for B+

Great news yesterday with the launch of the new Raspberry Pi B+, in my eyes a vey well thought out upgrade. With upgrades comes anxieties such as can I use the same power supply, keyboard, add ons etc. Well the answer to that is fortunately YES to 95% of the peripherals, there will naturally be a few exceptions with the breakout boards. As mentioned here the GPIO has been expanded to 40 pins. So let me give you a quick list of breakout boards that we know fit and will work with the new Model B+.

⚠️

Care must be taken to position a 26 PIN breakout board on the B+ GPIO lined up starting from PIN 1 to the Left (see pics) ; you should NOT connect to PIN 27 → 40.

 

These boards are all fully compatible with Raspberry Pi Model B+

 

Ryanteck RPi Motor Controller Board on Model B+

Ryanteck RPi Motor Controller Board on Model B+

 

 

PicoBorg (discontinued) Motorcontroller on Model B+ (now PicoBorg Reverse)

PicoBorg (discontinued) Motorcontroller on Model B+ (now PicoBorg Reverse)

 

 

Ledborg on Model B+

Ledborg on Model B+

 

 

XLoBorg motion sensor board on Model B+

XLoBorg motion sensor board on Model B+

 

 

BerryClip on Model B+

BerryClip on Model B+

 

 

RasPiO - Pro breakout on Model B+

RasPiO – Pro breakout on Model B+

 

MyPifi LED add-on with extended GPIO pins allowing 'stacking' on Model B+

MyPifi LED add-on with extended GPIO pins allowing ‘stacking’ on Model B+

 

MyPifi with additional GPIO ribbon connecting to a T-cobbler / Breadboard

MyPifi with additional GPIO ribbon connecting to a T-cobbler / Breadboard

 

 

Individual reviews of each breakout board coming here.

The Raspberry Pi Model B+ Is Here (Again!)

This is very exciting news – many great blogs covering the story, I will follow suit : testing a B+ as we speak. Other excellent reviews: http://www.recantha.co.uk/blog/?p=10323 & http://raspi.tv/2014/raspberry-pi-model-b-launched-today

Hackaday

raspberry_pi_Pi_side_01_ORIG

Depending on who you believe, yesterday someone either broke an NDA or was the lucky recipient of an Element 14 shipping error. Nevertheless, we were lucky enough to get a glimpse at the new Raspberry Pi Model B+. Today, everything is live, and Adafruit has a great teardown of what’s new, what’s changed, and what’s completely different in this new board.

The biggest question about this new Pi was the CPU: the Broadcom SoC in the models A and B are looking a little long in the tooth right now, and an upgraded CPU would be a very, very welcome addition. There is no change. This is the same 700 MHz Broadcom chip with 512MB of RAM. There will not be a ‘magical, because you’re awesome’ RAM upgrade the original Model B saw early in production, either – there simply aren’t enough address pins in the SoC.

Despite not…

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